Data privacy standards - another missed opportunity for civil society

Here we go again. A small group of #nonprofits will engage in the policy battle about data privacy. The rest of nonprofit sector and philanthropy will stand by, ignoring it. Thinking "consumer data privacy standards" - not our issue.

Yes, It is our issue. Replace the word "consumer" with the word "individual." Now, does it sound relevant? Digital data privacy matters to nonprofits and foundations.  Digital isn't optional, it's integral. Data management (including privacy) is the equivalent of fiduciary responsibility.

Managing, protecting, securing, destroying and respecting digital data is the key organizational capacity issue for nonprofits and foundations today. You have data from and about your beneficiaries, your donors, your staff, you.

How nonprofits manage data matters. Handling it well could (and should) lead to long term retention of trust and integrity in the sector. Standing by and waiting for Comcast, Target, Home Depot, Sony, your health insurance company, JP Morgan, (and every other major corporate or government agency that's recently been hacked) along with Axciom and the other 3999 commercial data brokers to come up with a bill won't help civil society. Standing by doesn't help you as an individual (the proverbial "consumer"), it doesn't help your nonprofit or foundation think through these issues as they matter to you, and it doesn't help the sector.

The sector as a whole is missing an opportunity to stand up for the rights of individuals and to stand up and differentiate nonprofit corporations and their respect for data privacy from their commercial competitors.  On the issue of people and their digital data why aren't nonprofits and foundation standing up saying "We Will Do this Right?" Here's what I wish nonprofits and foundations were saying right now:

"Since we're not in the data collection business to make a buck, and because we do collect (a lot) of data on you, this is how we handle it, this is how we use it toward our mission,  these are your rights to get it back from us, and here's proof of our data integrity."
What a moment to declare the integrity of the sector and collectively stand for trustworthy, mission-driven, transparent and understandable, respectful approaches to using personal data for public good.

Oh, the depressing sound of silence.


This is part two of a three-part series on digital values and civil society.  Part one is here. Part three will appear on Wednesday March 3, 2015.
*Thank you to those nonprofits that are engaged on these issues including the Center for Digital Democracy, Georgetown's Center on Privacy and Technology,

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