The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is tackling the issue of online security, hiring an internet security technologist, Daniel Kahn Gillmor. The ACLU argues that the importance now placed on “user experience” must also include the issue of digital security, answering questions that include:
- Will it be possible to communicate confidentially with your doctor, your business partner, your mate, or your friend?
- Will you know for sure who you are talking to?
- Can you be confident that no one else is listening?
- What assurances do you have that when you send someone a message, they will actually get it, and it will not be tampered with along the way?
From Gillmor’s point of view, the freedoms we enjoy — free speech and freedom of the press, for instance — rely heavily on our ability to interact without unauthorized intrusion.
“Gillmor’s focus is on defining standards and protocols that will shape communications infrastructure on a sprawling scale,” writes The Atlantic.
“These design decisions are often ‘baked in’ to the communications tools we use and they can shape our lives in ways we don’t expect, including in ways that infringe on some of the most fundamental human rights: how we express ourselves, who we communicate with, and how we grow as people,” Gillmor has written. The ACLU has a dotrights.org website to deal with digital issues. Issues with advertisers tracking web browsing activities are atop the page at the moment.
We’ve heard about data breaches and hacks left and right from retailers, banks, entertainment companies, etc. So far, the response has been one that speaks to these organizations’ failure to plug holes in their digital systems, upgrade their security mechanisms or something that was meant to make life easier opening up vulnerabilities.
The ACLU’s indicates (and echoes the feelings of many) that bad excuses are no longer acceptable. The dangers at this point are pretty well known and it’s the job of various groups, including for-profit ones, to do more to make sure their interactions with users, fans and customers are safe.
For PRs that means being knowledgeable and involved in the digital process beyond crafting tweets and Facebook posts. And trying to cobble together an apology or some sort of response after the fact isn’t enough. Concern about how online systems are built needs to be greater than ever and needs to involve more experts within the organization. If not and something goes wrong, you might get to know the ACLU a little better.