Lucy Bernholz on What’s Missing in Digital Spaces Right Now

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Image: Kyle Smith via GitKraken

The most important thing that’s lacking is actually any kind of private space where you are not being monitored by the corporations whose tools you’re using to have whatever conversation you’re having.

So, every time you have a conversation in a digital environment, all of it, there’s a third party who’s got that information — always a corporation. And then all of that exchange is also being monitored by the government.

If the fundamental premise is that this activity of non-profits happens outside of those realms, it literally doesn’t exist in digital space, because we’re playing in their house, if you will. We may well need and would all benefit from an environment that provides some protections for us in those spaces as they exist.

When we talk about digital civil society we always say, ‘Look, we need to invent this, because we don’t have it.’ The best way to protect somebody else’s digital data in that environment is to not collect it. If you don’t have it, then it’s not at risk.

Non-profits have been excited to use things like free online documents and spreadsheets that are stored in the cloud and shared across organizations, and this comes at no direct financial cost to them. If you upload to those systems the names of everyone participating in your programs, with their address their email and their phone number, you’ve just given it away to other parties.

But, if you collect that information and don’t store it online, for one, or you encrypt it, for two, or you store it on your own servers and not in other people’s houses, as I like to think about it, then you are providing the same degree of integrity to that data that you again provide to the money that you rely on to do your business in the first place. You’re treating it with integrity toward your mission.

And if your mission, for example, is helping vulnerable people in your community, don’t do it in such a way that you essentially make them more vulnerable.

Source: Lucy Bernholz via Vermont Public Radio (audio)

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