Seven Ways Your Organization can Put Privacy Into Practice – and Why | Beth's Blog

Seven Ways Your Organization can Put Privacy Into Practice – and Why

Guest Post

Photo by Sean MacEntee

Note from Beth: My colleague, Taryn Degnan, from CommonSense Media, shared this wonderful poster about privacy for elementary school kids.  We got into a little side conversation about privacy and nonprofits and she offered to write up this post that includes some tips for nonprofits.

Seven Ways Your Organization can Put Privacy Into Practice – and Why Guest Post by Taryn Degnan

As social media managers and nonprofit leaders, we’re living in an age of connectedness with a goal of empowering our users, engaging and mobilizing them for the greater good. Our missions are diverse, yet we have the common goal of raising awareness of the work we’re doing. Along with that goal is an obligation to raise awareness of the ways in which we’re using the data provided to us by our fans and friends. It’s up to us to address their fundamental right to privacy by reconciling their concerns and being clear and concise when it comes to asking for information from donors, volunteers, board members and friends.

Transparency – that buzzword we have all come to know so well – is as important in the nonprofit world as it is in the corporate world, and it means as much today as financial accountability and maintaining open lines of communication with constituents. Transparency is crucial because tracking, profiling, and behavioral marketing to users has become a widespread, global practice that often leaves us befuddled. As leaders, we have to respect our audience. We have to create an environment of trust around the information we collect and be crystal clear about where it’s going.

Our world is evolving at a dizzying pace, and it’s as much about creating media as it is about consuming it. We’re streaming video, posting photos, sharing personal information and listening to music, not to mention “checking in” wherever we go. Privacy often seems confusing and nuanced, but for us, the critical focus needs to be on the element where we have the most control: information about the people we serve.

With a little help from Mozilla Manifesto, here are seven basic privacy principles to keep your organization in check and help guide your decisions on social campaigns, privacy policies and more:

  • No surprises. Constituents have every right to know when you’re collecting their data. Be specific about your purpose for gathering it, and only keep the data for as long as you will need it to serve that purpose.
  • Real choices. At Common Sense, we believe that the industry standard for privacy should be opt-in – especially for kids. Promote accountability by giving your users the opportunity to make informed choices, and ask for their active participation in keeping your records up to date.
  • Limited data. Collect only what you need. Like Mozilla, we believe the Web is a “shared public resource to be cared for, not a commodity to be sold.” Use non-personally identifying forms whenever possible.
  • User control. It’s simple: without your users’ consent, do not disclose their personal information. It’s easy to post an off-the-cuff, friendly Facebook post about a donor or volunteer, but make sure it’s kosher with them first.
  • Trusted third parties. When it comes to selecting service providers and partners for projects and collaborations, make sure they are just as committed to privacy as you are.
  • Privacy across the board. Does your organization have a mobile app? A blog? A YouTube channel? Make sure your privacy principles apply across all platforms, both on your own hosted sites and elsewhere.
  • Security. From restricting wireless access points to encrypting data on your organization’s portable laptops, keeping a secure environment is an integral part of preventing data leakage and upholding your constituents’ trust.

At Common Sense Media, we believe that treating others’ information carefully, and teaching others to do the same, is a key factor in building and maintaining trust. This applies both in building friendships and in building business, and the learning starts right at home and in the classroom. We guide parents through raising kids in this digital age, and provide digital literacy curriculum to educators at no cost. Our core policy priority is kids’ mobile and online privacy. We give families a voice and together, encourage policymakers, media companies, and others to improve the media environment for all of us.

There is so much more to privacy than this, but you can help bring it all to life in your everyday practices and set an example for others to follow at the same time. For more information about privacy, policies that support it, and how to take control of the media and technology in your life, visit For further guidance on how your organization can “pivot on privacy,” check out this recent article from GigaOM.

And now it’s your turn. What is your single most important privacy principle?

Taryn Degnan is the Manager of Social Media and Online Community at Common Sense Media. She lives in San Francisco with her husband who spends way less time with social media than she does.   Follow Taryn  on Twitter.

4 Responses

  1. […] Seven Ways Your Organization can Put Privacy Into Practice – and Why. […]

  2. Beth and Taryn,
    I so appreciated this post. I love that what you are really writing about in this post is taking the idea of privacy, but turning it into TRANSPARENCY by stating publicly the organization’s privacy policies. There could be no better way to be transparent than to post privacy policies publicly.

    I recently worked with a campaign where supporters took photos of voters who supported a certain issue, and posted the photos to a Flickr page. After taking a photo, supporters would ask the voter to sign a release of their image for a blog post and publicly-viewable Flickr photo. Interestingly, most supporters had no problem allowing the use of their images online.

    Your post made me to think: could we have taken the privacy release to the next level with an online privacy principle that every photo subject signed a release? Should we have a conversation about privacy principles for the next campaign? Thanks for sparking an interesting conversation for the campaign wrap-up!

  3. JSL says:

    I believe sgrouples addresses most if not all these guidelines. they don’t track or mine any user data

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