It is the 21st century, the Internet is thriving, software tycoons accrue hundreds of thousands of dollars per second, and, unfortunately, privacy has become nothing more than an illusion. 

Companies hire Ivey-league attorneys to craft a mutable contract concerning a client’s data.  This contract, a privacy policy, is now required by law.  However, businesses cannot explicitly say how and why they are collecting your data. This would reveal trade secrets for companies built off the data they collect. They are left just stating that the data is collected. At the same point, they cannot be bound to a specific policy, because technology changes at such a fast pace. An employee crafts a new feature, and they decide to push it to market. Sometimes these features need data that they haven’t accessed prior. 

As a user, we are stripped down. The privacy policy is an old, ragged cloth, hanging by a string, that is censoring certain body parts. A company has to decide how much cloth to give us. If we start to feel uncomfortable, they lose. If we start to like it too much, they don’t make any money and lose. We could just charge for services, but some people like to only wear a dusty cloth.  We don’t want to force them in a tux. Ok, yes, we do. This metaphor is falling faster than a stock market crash. Time to move on. 

As a developer, I have had a choice. There is the light side and the dark side.  It’s the rebellion or imperialism. Do I want to be known as doing what others have done, or do I want to be remarkably different. When people come screaming about data I collect, would they come with lawsuits for me? I’m only a college student. I have debt. I don’t even know how the judicial system works. 

These thoughts led me to reform my thought process towards privacy. I decided to semi-invent (or throw-together) a unique type of policy. I would like to see what you think. 

As I write software, I’ve fallen madly in love with GitHub. It is literally a programmer’s zen garden. haha. It’s pretty cool, though. Anyway, the whole concept of version control is beautiful. If an update appears for one of my apps or dependencies, my first thought is, “What has changed?”  Ok, to be fair… my first thought is, “wat?! Again!!” But it’s a close second. Version control can highlight the exact changes made. I’m declaring this. As of August 21, 2015, I’m stating that I plan to put my privacy policies and terms of use under version control. This means that my users can directly see the lines that have changed, and they have a reference. At the same point, it is fair, because dating will ensure the policy that was in effect if a complaint is filed. If the policy is updated, a user must agree to the new policy to continue or activate certain functionality. It’s not very secretive. I can’t do it quietly, but I think it is my responsibility to be more transparent. 

Next, my policies will directly state the data that they are collecting. This may be in a list form. Vague statements, like “we may collect location data and sell it to politicians and global, democratic causes”, is not acceptable. What, huh? Why do they need my location? Bottom line, I’d be more specific, like-so: “As a political interest application, we may use your location to assist you in your search for local, like-minded politicians and causes. You may opt out of these features at any time.” It’s a lot cleaner, and it doesn’t make me sound like the illuminati. It also gives the user the option to opt out of this data collection. Notice that they are told that certain features will not be active without this data. In other words, they have a right to object, but their objections have a cost. Likewise, my business secrets are kept private. I have not specifically disclosed my process for finding like-minded politicians and causes. The user must determine if the cost outweighs the benefits.

Finally, I plan to put everything in a skimmable form. Some apps have been writing hefty novels. I’m talking spark notes people. I want a user to be able to drift through my policy in plain English statements and say, “Yes, Ben, here it is. I love your app. Thanks for your honesty.” I think the best way to do this is to place it in an outline form. I’ve thought about a lot. I even went as far as a mind map privacy policy. The outline seems like the most sane selection. However, I’m open to suggestions. It should use as few words as possible and disclose as much as the user needs to know. Yes, it is possible. One day, I hope I’ll have a good demo. 

Anyway, I hope that this post has helped you re-evaluate your privacy policies and concerns. As I move forward in the technology sector, I want to distinguish my applications and businesses from their competition. I want my users to know that I will give them a suit, not a cloth. They may remove clothing that they’d like. Hopefully, not too much.