RICARDO SIGNES: Welcome to Digital Citizen Podcast. I’m Ricardo Signes, the CEO of Fastmail, the email provider of choice for savvy, digital citizens everywhere.
HELEN HORSTMANN-ALLEN: And I’m Helen Horstmann-Allen, COO of Fastmail. We make email that you can feel good driven by our values, and one of those values is being a good digital citizen.
RICARDO SIGNES: That’s what the show’s about, the idea of digital citizenship. If you want to learn actionable ways that you can make the internet a better place, this podcast is for you.
HELEN HORSTMANN-ALLEN: So Rik, who can our listeners look forward to hearing you talk to this time?
RICARDO SIGNES: I talked to Lucie Krahulcova who works at Digital Rights Watch as an advocate for digital privacy rights around the globe. Fastmail is a proudly Australian company, and we’ve worked with Digital Rights Watch in the past.
HELEN HORSTMANN-ALLEN: Countries around the world are writing new privacy laws. Some of them affect us. Lots of them don’t, but we always have a responsibility to speak up and weigh in on the discussion. Having worked with Lucie and Digital Rights Watch, we thought that her story was really compelling, and we wanted to share it with you.
RICARDO SIGNES: Lucie’s worked in privacy rights in Europe and now Australia. So she has a really interesting perspective on the differences and attitudes in different places.
HELEN HORSTMANN-ALLEN: That sounds super interesting. What are you going to talk about?
RICARDO SIGNES: We talked about how the internet has evolved and how our rights have evolved with it and how some companies and governments take advantage of our digital rights and others have taken steps to protect digital rights with legislation like Europe’s GDPR. This led us down an interesting path about why you should care about your data’s privacy and how you can make positive choices online and in real life.
RICARDO SIGNES: At the end of the episode, I’ll give you some of my takeaways, things you can actually do to be a better digital citizen. You can also find them at our website, digitalcitizenshow.com.
RICARDO SIGNES: Lucie, could you tell me and everybody else a little bit more about yourself and Digital Rights Watch?
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Yeah. Hey, and it’s a pleasure to be here. Good morning from a dark and gloomy Melbourne.
RICARDO SIGNES: Good evening.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Time zones. I’m a digital rights advocate. I have been working in the space for a couple of years. I started at an NGO called Access Now about seven years ago, I guess, now. So, I worked in Brussels on EU legislation a lot trying to get digital rights at the highest EU levels. Then, I moved, sort of happenstance, to Melbourne and had the opportunity to step in and develop Digital Rights Watch because it was a volunteer-run effort, a great effort may I add, but only volunteer run. So, I was brought in to see if we could pick it up off the ground and build it out into a little bit of a stronger voice, an actual organization that has staff. So, we’re doing okay so far, but it’s a challenging landscape. In Australia, it’s quite different than what I’m used to in the EU-US bubble. So, it’s been a definite challenge.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: But Digital Rights Watch is a digital rights advocacy group. So, we do everything from, maybe, security trainings to policy submissions to consultations with parliament, reports on what we’re seeing, things like that.
RICARDO SIGNES: What would you say the central mission of Digital Rights Watch is?
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: To ensure fairness and freedom in the digital space. So, to make sure that we have the same liberties and freedoms that we have offline also online.
RICARDO SIGNES: The name Digital Rights Watch says to me that I should be thinking about what my digital rights are. What would you say are all of our fundamental digital rights? How should we think about that?
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Oh, that’s a great question. I think a lot of people just let the internet happen to them. So, the space has kind of run away in terms of being the free and open internet that we used to know. So, human rights offline should count online. What does that mean? I think most importantly, what we’re concerned with recently, is the right to privacy because especially in the European-US context, we see the right to privacy being at least somewhat a functional stopper for some of the things that governments are considering using the internet for, kind of things like surveillance as well as a functional stop for some of the egregious data collection that’s done by private companies.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: So, the right to privacy, I think, if I had to name what the true digital rights were, I would say that’s one of them. I would also say freedom of association and freedom of thought. Those are the sort of things that the internet was really great at in its beginnings. I think a lot of people found community on the internet when they were young, and I think those spaces are kind of disappearing for the newer generation. So, those are the ones I would pick out from the regular human rights framework as being the most impacted. But if you were going to write a charter of digital rights, maybe the 10 commandments of Digital Rights Watch, and it would just be data minimization, privacy, people have rights, can’t take down content without telling anybody, don’t censor people, don’t surveil people. Those kinds of things would be in there.
RICARDO SIGNES: There’s a lot in that answer that I really want to try and unpack. If we had this list of rights, and we’ve got our 10 commandments of how the internet should work, just making the list doesn’t make them become inviolate principles. We’ve made a list. How do I know what are the companies that I’m dealing with feel the same way? Do they respect my rights? Do they believe my rights exist? How do I think about this?
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: That’s a really good question. You will only ever have rights towards companies if you have a government that cares about giving you rights towards the companies. That’s the real, functional I think, cynical answer.
RICARDO SIGNES: Okay.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Look, companies don’t operate in a vacuum. There’s a lot of people who are in the digital rights space working on the business and human rights side, and there are human rights principles that the UN has agreed to—UN guiding principles on human rights that companies should follow. Do they follow them? People like Clearview AI, and some of the other companies that we’ve seen pop up in the space recently, definitely don’t. The reality is that it has to be governments who enforce or at least give you at least the right to enforce some of these things towards companies. Let’s say if there’s privacy legislation, there needs to be a way to action that, and there needs to be a functional way for an individual to challenge the system.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: So, I think a great example of that is Max Schrems and what he did in the EU, which people may or may not be familiar with, but he brought Facebook to court over egregious data collection. It took down, at the time, the data transfer mechanism between the EU and US. You can imagine, that really put a squeeze on, not just Facebook, but I think Google, Microsoft, Twitter, all the big companies, Amazon WebServices. He wouldn’t have been able to do that if there wasn’t a court system and a legal framework which told him that what was happening was wrong.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: So, a lot of the work I think that digital rights advocates like us are doing is just trying to make sure that the frameworks are there, and they’re functional to respond to some of the challenges we’re seeing.
RICARDO SIGNES: So, if the best way to ensure that your rights are being respected is to see them enshrined in law, or at least a fundamental way to make that happen, if not the only or the best way. The next question’s probably, what kind of laws? In 2018, the European Union rolled out GDPR, which is this massive suite of regulation of people’s information and the tools that they needed to be given to understand what was being recorded about them, what was being shared, and to give them some amount of say about it. It’s a big complicated topic, but I’m sure you understand better than I do.
RICARDO SIGNES: Do you think GDPR is the kind of regulation that is in the public interest that helps protect these rights effectively?
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: The direct answer to that question would be yes. There’s a longer answer because the GDPR is, I think, a uniquely European approach because in Europe, we have the right to privacy and the right to data protection. The GDPR is complemented in the EU with other frameworks. There’s e-privacy which actually looks after the privacy of communications and a ton of other laws and courts that you rely on. But was it extremely functional, and is it extremely practical for users? I think so.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: So, one of the things that it introduces is you have the data protection authorities in the individual member states. So, people in each country can bring concerns if they feel like their data has been collected or they’re having to submit data to companies that they shouldn’t have to for the functionality they’re asking, it’s very actionable. You can go in your own language. There’s protection authority that has a direct line and can argue with tech companies or can investigate companies, issue fines, issue notices, things like that.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: I think the important thing about a GDPR is it’s a rights-based approach. So, there’s a couple of rights that the GDPR spells out. So, we have the right to portability, right to an explanation, right to deletion or something. I’m paraphrasing. But I think there’s eight or nine rights that the GDPR actually gives people, and it gives them a means to express that. The great thing about it is, because it is such a big thing and so many countries agreed on it at once, it created a real chaos in all companies that provide services online. It created a real ripple, even globally, and a lot of companies complied with GDPR de facto because they just didn’t want to lose the European side of the business. So, it actually ended up pulling a lot of standards up, I think, across the globe. Then, there were companies that decided to shut down European operations.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: So is it the perfect way to have rights in the digital space? No. But was it incredibly functional, and does it have incredible repercussions? Yes. Yeah.
RICARDO SIGNES: Okay. So, you said a few things I want to go back to. The first one is at the beginning of that, you said you think the GDPR is very European because Europe begins by having an existing right to privacy, for example. Do you think that means that a next step for other places is to begin by establishing these human rights outside the context of being digital rights, or is that going to be too hard, and we can somehow build the digital rights first?
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: I think it’s impossible almost to build the digital rights framework without having a proper human rights framework because there’s a culture that comes with having a strong cultural but embedded human rights framework. I can elaborate what I think that means. In Europe, we have a really strong culture of human rights because of the history. I often joke with people that I’m incredibly sensitive about some of these topics because I’m from Czech Republic. So, historically, government knowing too much information about you was a pretty terrible determinant in your life. So, I think the way Europeans look at privacy and the reason we have the right to privacy and the right to data protection in Europe is the historic context. So, there’s a culture that gets built around that, and then that’s a culture that translates into the digital space. You just can’t build out a digital rights space out of nothing.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Actually, more and more, it’s harder to even push for things in the digital rights space because certain governments are just seeing it as a playground for surveillance and monitoring. So, globally, if we could just agree to go with the law we already have, it would already give people a lot more rights than they have now.
RICARDO SIGNES: So, maybe having an acknowledgment of the human rights is necessary and may, in fact, be sufficient, because the digital rights simply follow from that.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Yeah. You can see the correlation between countries that do have a strong human rights framework and countries that do have the most digital rights respect in the world. It’s kind of Europe and Northern America. You see it play out globally which countries are the most vocal for human rights are the ones who are least resistant to digital rights.
RICARDO SIGNES: I want to get back to GDPR. You mentioned that it threw things into chaos for some tech companies or caused a lot of turmoil, which I definitely remember. Fastmail didn’t have a lot of trouble complying with GDPR. We basically were doing all things required, but we had to think about it. We had to look at the documentation, see what was required to think about whether we did it. What I found really interesting was the mental framework that was provided for whose data is this, what can you do with your data, what can you do with someone else’s data. I think that it provided a means for companies to look at what they’re doing in the framework of what should be expected. Is that what’s needed on a legalistic level after we’ve established basic rights to enunciate those requirements?
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Yeah, that’s good… Well, first of all, congratulations to you guys.
RICARDO SIGNES: Oh, thank you.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: For building a service that wasn’t egregious or collected too much data. Yay.
RICARDO SIGNES: We do our best.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: I think that’s the distinction if I go back to what I said. For most people, the internet just kind of happens to them. The amount of data that’s collected is just crazy. I hate it from a digital rights perspective. I think a lot of the time entire business models are set up around data collection. It’s set up around targeted advertising, and it’s set up around who can derive the most value off their usership. You saw a lot of free things emerge. People are like, “Oh, you’re paying with your data.” People think it’s like a joke, but that’s what it was. The reason all of these services were suddenly quite technically complex things, because even for an app, it takes time, it takes money, it takes teams to develop and design and… You’re accessing that for free because they’ve managed to get funding and sell it to someone as “we’re going to be able to collect either huge amounts of data and resell it, or do targeted advertising,” or they had a growth model that would eventually sell you things in the app.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: So I think what the GDPR did is, as you say, made people think about that data. The fact that data still belongs to a person. So, that’s the key thing where I think the disconnect happens is that companies thought, “Okay. Well, once people give us the data, then it’s in our dataset, and we own these datasets and data points and everything that they do is in our little usage datasets.” I think that the big shift is to think about that’s still people’s data. I think the GDPR did a wonderful job at lighting that fire underneath people to think that through. A lot of companies really struggled with it because they just haven’t thought about when you log out of a service or you want to leave, they’ll let you leave, but your data is not going to get deleted. But now it has to, and they kind of have to show proof that they were able to do that, which really changed the functional way of how certain services and websites could operate.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Yeah, me too.
RICARDO SIGNES: But I don’t want to do it. I just want to click the right button. The point behind that cookie thing is to inform people so they are empowered to make good choices, but I think the confusion disempowered them. What can we be doing to inform people about their rights in these spaces to actually empower them?
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Good question. It’s an interesting conundrum because people just are used to the internet happening to them. But when you used to access websites and the cookies just happened, you were like none the wiser. It was a very user-friendly experience. Now that the cookies are there, I think it’s actually the longer they are, the more I’m like, “Good.” I love when a huge banner pops up and blocks half my screen because ultimately at least to me it says you are entering into a contractual agreement with this business now that you’re on their website. I think that’s interesting for two reasons.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: First of all, because I don’t think that’s the way it should work if you’re just cruising a website. I don’t think any data should be collected at all, but of course, there’s a very easy way to comply with that and just stop collecting all the crap that you are. Then people can just accept the bare basic functionality ones. Okay, I’m on your website to put things in my shopping cart there needs to be a cookie stored. But I think that’s an interesting illustration of the contractual thing that happens. People are annoyed by it, but that’s the reality. You’re browsing the internet. You’re coming into contact with 50 different companies that shouldn’t know you, that should alarm you.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: I’m not sure how we can solve this at a business level because a lot of these businesses are built on data aggregation, selling to third parties, and analytics, blah, blah, blah. In the infrastructure that we’ve built where people access 100 different websites each week and use dozens of different apps, is it even reasonable for people to come into that many contractual relationships and who’s responsible—who could be responsible for making sure people understand what’s happening to them?
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: So for me, the fascinating thing that happened was Apple giving people the ability on a system’s level to block Facebook tracking on their devices was an interesting move towards that.
RICARDO SIGNES: I like the idea that I can look at the cookie popup as a reminder that I’m entering into a contractual relationship with the website, and do I really want to do that? That’s a good way to view that. I think it’s the stay-angry version of the user interface experience. It’s telling me this is annoying because you should be annoyed.
RICARDO SIGNES: I’m going to throw in a question somebody asked me recently. “Why should I pay for email? Isn’t email free?” In his answer, as you suggested, something like, “Well, you’re paying with your data.” They said, “If you don’t have anything to hide, why should you be worried about your data’s privacy?” Which is a question I hear a lot, I like hearing people’s answer to it who don’t think that they should give their data away. So what’s your answer to that question?
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Personally, I hate that question so much because as I said, I live with intergenerational trauma of the government spying on their citizens. So, when people say they have nothing to hide, what it tells me is you’ve come from a really comfortable position where your life has been unaffected by the power structures around you, whether that’s companies or governments. So, I know people kind of hate this modern talk, but it’s a position of privilege basically because what you’re saying is that your life so fits within the spectrum of what is normal and expected that you’re not in any way worried about the legislation, for instance, turning against you. Which, for instance, the gay community in the US is constantly still concerned about. It’s a very real thing for huge chunks of our population.
RICARDO SIGNES: So part of this is when I think about being a digital citizen, one of my responsibilities is to myself and my own safety, and another one is to the safety of everybody else. Maybe the answer is I really don’t have anything to hide, which is a position I would probably even disagree with for most people. But even if we can take that position, so many other people legitimately have something to hide that it’s responsible to respect that. Are we on the same page there? Is that what you’re saying?
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Yeah. yeah. Well, that’s it. I would challenge those people and say, “Do you think everyone in this society feels that way? Do you think they’re as confident as you are?” Most people’s answer will be, “Well, no. I could see immigrants or people who are in different kinds of spots.” Be like, “Well, why aren’t you a part of the general mass of actually trying to help these people and figure out societally what the rules are, not just for you personally.”
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: So to me, that’s a big struggle in activism too. We’ve kind of wavered from community and community thinking, and I think we live in a very individualistic world. That’s not super recent but the last few decades. I struggle with that because online it means that people have this kind of mindset. They’re like, “Well, it’s not about me.” Yeah, it is.
RICARDO SIGNES: Community thinking can be difficult on the internet I think. There’s other places where I think I’m engaging kind of the same thing. If I take a bus ride, I tap on and off the bus, or if I’m in Melbourne, I take the tram and I’m tapping off and on the tram. I’m leaving a data footprint there, too. I don’t feel like I know that I’ve opted into data collection, but I’m sure that data’s being collected. Who owns that data? Who’s protecting that data?
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Well, thanks for this softball pitch because we have a campaign for digital rights cities that looks specifically at this. So we actually did for Melbourne Knowledge Week. We did guided tours through the CBD, which is the Central Business District. We kind of took people through this one-hour tour to explain all the cameras, the infrastructure of the city, where data points get collected by businesses, by PTV, the public transport, and shopping malls. We took them through a shopping mall, explained the cameras and how that works, even something like a car park will monitor your comings and goings. The wifi in the shopping mall will follow you around. There’s no point at your experience in a city where you’re not generating data points somewhere. Some of those are fairly innocuous because they monitor maybe the density of traffic or something like that.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: So, at that stage, you’re just a number in a crowd. But a lot of the times they’ll take pictures of your face. There’s a ton of CCTV in a lot of our capital cities. Melbourne’s, I think, egregious because every time you look around, you see at least several cameras, but I think that’s the trend in a lot of cities. We don’t see a lot of cities fighting back against it. We do see a couple of places like San Francisco and Portland and Barcelona who have been like, “There’s too much.” If you’re an individual and you’re going through a city, there’s no way you’re going to affect that. Things are just going to be collected about you. Now actually with contact tracing, even more data that we’ve created in an even bigger data infrastructure that’s being collected about you.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Cities can definitely do that. I think people often forget to have conversations with their city counselors and the local representation. They can have a huge impact. I think especially when we look at issues, like in the future, like drones, a lot of companies like Uber and Amazon are lobbying very heavily governments for drone-delivery systems. So, imagine a future where you look out your window and there’s like drones just zooming around delivering packages. That’s a place, the privacy impacts of that are huge obviously because the drone has to (A) actually take in its surroundings and map them in order to fly, so to a certain extent, it identifies objects and persons. But (B) I’m sure the same way that they’ve done to their drivers, they’re going to equip the drones with some sort of security camera, so in case it gets damaged, they can protect their property and press charges. So, I’m sure those drones are also going to have 360 CCTV, for sure. To me, that’s horrifying because you’re losing the privacy of your windows. That’s huge.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: But they are lobbying for that because obviously for them that’s the cheapest, most efficient way to deliver packages, you’re not relying on a human to do that. So, in that space, the city can have an incredible impact. So, I would say people need to have conversations with their local counsels a lot more. I want my city to make sure it protects my privacy to its best abilities. There’s a lot of stuff they can’t do without being at the highest levels, but there’s a lot of functional things in my day-to-day experience that they can affect.
Ricardo Signes: For everybody who’s not a digital rights activist and who is listening to this list of all these things, what are the actions that they could be taking right now or in their everyday life to protect themselves and make the internet a better place?
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Find the digital rights people in your area I would say and start talking to them because chances are they’re doing a lot at the local level, and they’re working on issues that are the most pertinent. The conversation is different in different countries. So, I would say find your local group, subscribe to updates; for us having actual people interested is really important. It can be me yelling at a government all the time. I probably will, I think it’s my life now. It’s my life’s work, yelling at different people and governments. But for individuals, especially when it’s like your local representation, your local MP or something like that. It’s really impactful when you give them a call and you say “the framework needs to be there for us to have functional rights.”
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Then, the second thing is internet used to be a thing that you would have one computer in your home, and you would interact with the internet in very limited spurts. We now literally are surrounded by the internet 24/7. There are people who have really been good about separating themselves from the infrastructure, but for a lot of people, every waking hour is spent on the internet because they have interconnected homes. They’re immediately on their phones. They’re immediately plugged into work meetings. So, we have cameras literally in our living rooms. With the pandemic, we’ve really normalized kids having cameras in their bedrooms, which I find incredibly freaky. I think people shy away from conversations because it’s too controversial, but I think it’s important to have them.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: So, you won’t have the perfect privacy experience all the time, but think about the way you’re interacting with technology and don’t just let it happen to you. Question it. I think that’s the strength that they have over us is for practicality, people will accept anything because people don’t want to think about it. So, be a pain. Write an angry letter once in a while or disconnect the service that you don’t like the cookie banners of and stuff like that. Those are little things that will send signals to companies that that’s a prohibitive barrier to their service now.
RICARDO SIGNES: Yeah. We talk a lot about if we learn the bad things about internet, digital connected life, is the answer to delete all of our apps and just read books? The implicit answer is always no. It’s how do we engage with these things responsibly? The other thing is the internet is full of good things. I love that I can be collaborating with people all over the world in real-time. We’re having this conversation in real-time 10,000 miles apart, which is amazing. I do this with work, with my colleagues in Australia. I like that I can send emails to people who are anywhere in the world and I can have a long, thoughtful message that they get immediately and respond at their leisure. What about the internet do you think makes you feel best?
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Yeah. I love the place. So many people in the digital rights space will love technology, and I was surprised when I first got into the space when people had like Alexa or something at home. I was like, “How do people live like this?” But the reality is we love the infrastructure. We just want it to be a lot better, and a lot of these products are really great. I have a private Instagram, and I love that space. We share so many things with my friends. It’s such a beautiful, picturesque, animated way to communicate with people. I love it. But am I super upset that Instagram got bought out by Facebook? Yes, I was outraged. For me, it’s a catalyst. My own experience with those platforms always informs what I make arguments for with the government.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: I love the internet because it creates that community and that accessibility. We always call it the great equalizer, but on the free and open internet, as it were, it became a trope of universities like, “Don’t just Wikipedia that.” But how incredible is Wikipedia as a universal encyclopedia and information source for people? Really just wow, what an access to resources and people.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: So for me, it was incredibly important to have community when I travel. I think my first computer I got in the year 2000, but that was also the first year that I was away from home. We started sending these incredibly absurd emails between my best friends. But to me, that was the beautiful part. Obviously, as I went in to study Arab spring happened. We saw the power of, people clued in to the power of social media and the way that it could be used for people to communicate and organize movements. That became for me, as a person having a global network that sort of exists outside of the limitations of countries, that was really cool. Unfortunately, ever since then, the way that brought into spotlight the great things about the internet, brought into spotlight for governments and companies, the way they could monetize and control the internet.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: So since then, I think we’ve seen a gradual decline of what it used to be and data localization laws. Walls have gone up in certain places, Russia and China and even smaller countries, I think, now are thinking of having more intranets than the internet. I think that’s the tragedy of it for me. But the community that you have on the internet and the way you’re able to mobilize and understand global issues is really great. What a wonderful tool we’ve been given. I’m upset that governments see it as a way to control and monitor us, and I’m upset that companies see it as a way to monetize another piece of infrastructure. I will spend the next decades having those arguments because they’re eternal. They’ve been here since the internet made it into civilian use. Gosh darn, they will outlive us, I’m sure.
RICARDO SIGNES: Well, and hopefully all the good aspects will be the fire under us to keep us working to keep it mostly good and eliminate the bad parts.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: I remember when Google Maps was launched, and everybody looked at the globe. You could spin it and zoom into put… It was so…
RICARDO SIGNES: It was amazing.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: I’m becoming one of those people, when I have kids, I’ll be like, “You guys will never understand…” But it was so mesmerizing. We all huddled around in the computer lab as we clicked through. We’re like, “Go to my town. Go to my city.” It was this wonderful… People approach the internet with childlike wonder. There’s an unfortunate recklessness that happens to childlike wonder, and we’re now walking back and trying to fix that because the childlike wonder created a lot of technological issues. The internet is a patchwork of constantly trying to fix those. But yeah, for me, I grew up, I think, with that part of the internet that I’m very fiercely trying to protect now.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Don’t let the internet just happen. Make sure that you know what’s happening on it and don’t let the governments or the companies off the hook. We can fight on both sides I think and get a lot of wins.
RICARDO SIGNES: I think that don’t let the internet just happen to you. Feels like something I would like to license and put on the podcast.
RICARDO SIGNES: Thank you a lot for being here. I know it’s early for you, and I appreciate you being up on this bleary Melbourne day to talk to us.
LUCIE KRAHULCOVA: Yay. Thanks for having me on here. Pleasure.
HELEN HORSTMANN-ALLEN: Wow, Rik. I really enjoyed listening to that interview.
RICARDO SIGNES: At the end of that conversation, Lucie and I were talking about parts of the internet that we love the most. This was great. Everybody likes talking about the stuff they like. So what parts of your connected life make you feel best, Helen?
HELEN HORSTMANN-ALLEN: So I’ve been a photographer my whole life, and I have been on the photo-sharing services since Flickr first launched. I love putting my pictures up. I love getting feedback from it. Now, I share pictures on my Apple albums, on Slack, everywhere. I mean, Instagram. I love putting pictures up. I love seeing other people’s pictures. They just make me feel good, right? There’s only so much gloom and doom you can put into a photograph or at least one I’ll choose to look at. My mom was someone who would drag people into slideshows with carousel and the clicker. I don’t do that to people, but a little bit. I’m like, “Can I show them all to you?” Flip, flip, flip, flip. Anyway, that’s my favorite.
HELEN HORSTMANN-ALLEN: I will also say you and I have always loved sharing music online. So much so that we invented a whole musical game just so we could foist our own playlists onto other people and make them listen to it. So, that’s also been great since the very beginning.
RICARDO SIGNES: Yeah. I’ve enjoyed how many people when asked this say it’s sharing photos. I think that the idea that you can carry around this little piece of glass in your pocket that is a window into everybody else’s life is just really compelling. While there are plenty of gloomy, doomy photos on the internet, those aren’t the ones people post on the Instagrams that I want to follow.
HELEN HORSTMANN-ALLEN: Yeah. I mean, when you talk about the internet of things, what was really the first compelling use of that? Being able to put a digital frame somewhere in the house of your unconnected loved one, and having them call you up when you put new pictures on it.
RICARDO SIGNES: I thought you were going to say the X10 camera.
RICARDO SIGNES: All right. So let’s talk about the takeaways from this episode. First off, you should care about your data privacy online and in real life. Lucie says very correctly that your digital rights are just your human rights in the digital realm. Just as much as you care about your personal individual rights, you should care about them in all aspects of your life, including online. From surveillance and cities to cookies on websites, there’s lots of information that’s being collected about you all the time, and you should be aware of it. You should think about it when you’re making your choices.
RICARDO SIGNES: You should also talk to your local governments and tell them that your digital rights matter to you. If they’re being respected, tell them that you noticed and that you appreciate it and that’s good, and they should continue doing so. If they’re not being respected, you should tell them that it needs to be fixed and that you notice that it’s not working, and this is important to you, too.
RICARDO SIGNES: Apart from talking to your government, talk to your friends and your family. Help them think about their digital rights and how the choices they’re making online affect their rights and affect their fundamental human needs.
HELEN HORSTMANN-ALLEN: Yeah, I think that’s super important. There’s a lot of people out there who would like to convince you that digital privacy is impossible or the ship has already sailed. Frankly, those are people who stand to make a lot of money from you not thinking you have any digital rights. So, don’t let them get away with it. You have rights. It’s time to protect them.
RICARDO SIGNES: That’s right. To the extent that you feel like your rights have already been taken away, they can be reclaimed. This is not a one-way transition either way. This is something you have to say you have that you deserve and that you want to continue to have in perpetuity.
HELEN HORSTMANN-ALLEN: I tell people all the time, a huge amount of data is being collected about you, and also that data goes bad fast. It’s important for these systems that they continue collecting data about you, which means also you can stop it at any time.
RICARDO SIGNES: Well, hopefully, people will consider making this change now to make the future start as soon as they can. Next time, we will be talking with Bron Gondwana, CEO of Fastmail, about open standards on the internet.
HELEN HORSTMANN-ALLEN: So join us next time, and we hope that you can take these actionable steps towards better digital citizenship today.
RICARDO SIGNES: Thanks for listening to Digital Citizen. Digital Citizen is produced by Fastmail, the email provider of choice for savvy, digital citizens everywhere. Our producer is Paul Colligan. Our assistant producers are Haley Hnatuk and Lenore Hart. Special thanks to the incredible team of people behind Fastmail. Digital Citizen is hosted by me, Fastmail CTO Ricardo Signes. Subscribe to our show on your favorite podcast player. For a free one-month trial of Fastmail, go to fastmail.com/podcast. For more episodes, transcripts, and my takeaways, go to fastmail.com/digitalcitizen.