Privacy Should be More
The Bright Team
The Bright Team • Apr 28

Privacy Should be More

by The Bright Team

This week (like every week) we’re thinking about Privacy. As a concept, privacy is hard to pin down -- it feels obvious, palpable even, but when you try to define it, it bogs down into “you know what I’m trying to say.”

If privacy is something that matters for each individual, then shouldn’t we all be able to explain what it is? Hardly.

Why? If privacy is something that matters for each individual, then shouldn’t we all be able to explain what it is? Hardly. First of all, the idea of privacy as letting someone have their own space and respecting their secrets is barely older than the automobile. Before the 19th century and the anonymity of mass urbanism, everybody was in everybody else’s business, all the time. Parents spied on kids, friends spied on one another, communities spied on “strangers” -- we were a planet full of nosey parkers. And not always without reason, given that it was often up to communities themselves to protect against crime, disease, and danger. But the notion of a separate space, whether physical or metaphorical, was never much of a reality before the 20th century, and even then, only for people privileged enough to find it and wealthy enough to afford it.

So if privacy is not just, as Louis Brandeis once said, “the right to be let alone,” what are we trying to get at? We often say that it’s something positive and negative -- the right to exclude others from unwanted access to ourselves and the affirmative right to define who and what we “ourselves” are. In a sense, privacy is the right and the ability to create and recreate who we are without undue oversight and interference. It would be very little good to us if the process of figuring out who we are, day to day, was a process under an intense spotlight. Yet it would be equally wrong to assume that being alone is the solution, because we’re social beings and define ourselves by our connections to one another. Can it be a surprise, then, that privacy becomes deeply important to us when we’re teenagers, going through the first real process of defining who we are?

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Too philosophical? Probably. So let’s think of it more technically - what is it we really want when we say we want privacy online? No snooping, no recording, no tracking? Sure, and those are all important. But the right to make up our own minds, rather than being force-fed content, and the right to change our mind without fear or being cancelled are equally essential. And all of this has to take place in a framework that allows you to make these choices in real time, as you see fit.

This, at its root, is the core privacy principle behind Bright: you should decide who you are, what your community is, and what you want to say on your own terms and without us looking over your shoulder.

This, at its root, is the core privacy principle behind Bright: you should decide who you are, what your community is, and what you want to say on your own terms and without us looking over your shoulder. We want our community to be a place driven by our Members and what they care about. It’s the same reason we don’t have ads and don’t sell your data -- on Bright, you get to decide what people know about you and hear from you. Our job is to just let you be yourself.

That's not necessarily the case for social media generally. As the saga at the Blue Bird unfolds, our CEO Taryn Ward made clear that the potential Musk takeover will not only not make things better, it will almost certainly make things worse. This week, more than most, demonstrates why it's so important for there to be a social network that protects your privacy and focuses on trust, reliability, and not being, well, Twitter. 

That said, we also want to bring you things that you might enjoy or find interesting, which is why we have some great articles for you this week. The brilliant Prof. Sarah Igo reviews a new history of privacy, "Seek and Hide," looking at the costs of privacy in a connected world. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr stirred up controversy by blasting Apple's Tim Cook about censorship in China, just after the Cupertino CEO tried to promote Apple's privacy bona fides at a global meeting of privacy professionals. Meanwhile, Google has unveiled its newest round of privacy proposals for its “privacy sandbox,” and Zoom will pay $85m to settle a class action lawsuit about the notorious “zoombombing” incidents of the early pandemic.

We’d love to know what you think about privacy and why it’s important to you (or not). Send us an article at newsletter@thebrightapp.com and we’ll select one for publication in May. While you’re at it, don’t forget to sign up for the wait list and tell your friends and family about Bright, so you’ll be up to date on everything happening with the development of the app. We can’t wait to share what we’ve been doing to make the app everything we know it can be. Until then, have a great week, and we’ll look forward to seeing you soon on Bright!

Send us an article at newsletter@thebrightapp.com and we’ll select one for publication in May.

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The Bright Team
The Bright Team

Two lawyers, two doctors, and an army officer walk into a Zoom meeting and make Bright the best digital social community in the world. The team’s education and diversity of experience have given us the tools to confront some of the toughest tech and social problems.

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