Opt-In to Mindfulness: How Alexandra Ross Champions Privacy
Alexandra Ross, Senior Global Privacy and Data Security Counsel at Autodesk, works to demystify privacy issues so that users can make informed decisions about their privacy, and companies can develop products and services with privacy and security in mind. Technology users are often unconscious of how much personal information they are sharing, and companies are grappling with myriad privacy laws and regulations, as well as increased customer demand for enhanced transparency about data collection and use. In an era of rising awareness of the importance of privacy and data security in the technology field, Ross has focused her career on these issues.
In the process, she discovered that the same expertise that helps her be an effective privacy and security professional at Autodesk is also useful to the average person. Ross, featured right, found her calling in helping ordinary, everyday tech users make informed online privacy choices. She found a way to share this calling on her blog The Privacy Guru and in her Privacy for Humans ebook, available on Amazon and iTunes.
Autodesk: An Intentional Approach to Privacy and Data Security
When you talk to Ross, you get the distinct feeling that she is present in the conversation. She listens attentively and responds thoughtfully. By the end you’ve experienced a conversation flow that is deeply satisfying, respectful, and thoughtful. Her demeanor does not change even when she talks about the ever-shifting privacy and security regulatory changes or the latest highly publicized data breaches. It is a satisfying conversation independent of the subject matter.
At Autodesk, she and her teamwork to manage Autodesk’s privacy and security risks in an increasingly regulated environment. “Our job is to monitor with ever-changing technology and regulatory environment and help Autodesk and our business stakeholders keep pace,” she explains.
Ross suggests that the dynamic nature of the industry makes it even more important for privacy and security professionals to be mindful and intentional in every aspect of their jobs. “From interacting with my business clients, following the regulators’ statements, to responding to needs of Autodesks’ users, being mindful and intentional about spoken and unspoken needs and concerns is a way to get to an optimal and profitable result for all that are involved in the process,” she says.
The Privacy Guru Blog: Using Mindfulness to Cultivate Awareness and Develop a Privacy Practice
This expertise and understanding translates seamlessly to Ross’ passion project: her blog, The Privacy Guru. According to Ross, “Privacy isn’t something we must trade away to engage in the array of social technology in our lives.” As a privacy attorney, she has counseled and educated clients on privacy and data protection issues. “Along the way, I’ve noticed a striking gap in users’ awareness and understanding of fundamental privacy issues,” Ross says. “While companies may strive to incorporate privacy into product design, many users still don’t know what to look out for when sharing personal information. So, I started The Privacy Guru to address this gap in user’s knowledge.”
The mission of the blog is to champion privacy awareness and demystify privacy issues for users. Ross hopes that the blog stimulates their curiosity and deepens their understanding about privacy and data protection. Ross firmly believes that “Nothing about online privacy choices should be beyond our control. And to ensure that, I want to help users cultivate mindfulness as a part of how they share online.”
Her blog is also a place where she expresses the view that we can enjoy the benefits of technology by using it intelligently. “For me, mindfulness is at the core of my professional and personal life. While we certainly don’t need to meditate or strike a yoga pose before posting on social media, I believe a privacy practice formed through focused, deliberate attention and awareness is a valuable resource to draw on as technologies find their way deeper and deeper into our everyday lives,” Ross explains. She also believes that “By aligning my offline values with my online values, I have been able to ground my choices in a meaningful privacy practice. I hope I can help users navigate technology and social media the same way and share mindfully!”
Ross believes that “technology does not have to be the enemy of our right to privacy, and there are more productive responses than privacy panic. Awareness and mindfulness are at the core of a solid privacy practice.” She recommends a more productive three-step approach:
- Consider what privacy means to you. Examine your own values, because privacy is personal.
- Be choosy in your privacy choices. Learn to identify when you are being given a legitimate choice or a “take it or leave it” proposition.
- Learn to see clearly. Slow down online. Stop, evaluate, and then enter your personal information.
The Privacy for Humans ebook: Growing With, Not Against Technology
In addition to the blog, Ross’ ebook Privacy for Humans aims to help average users foster an open and optimistic conversation around how we can grow with technology and balance the power of our networked world with human values. According to Ross, “Privacy for Humans is a guide for technology lovers who want to embrace the future with enhanced awareness of data privacy and security issues.” Ross explains, “The ebook is designed with conversation in mind, and it is designed to facilitate a safe, engaging space for users of all walks of life to learn about privacy and security and share their concerns and ideas openly with one another.”
In the ebook Ross teaches readers how to cultivate privacy awareness in order to make more informed decisions about personal privacy. She zeroes in on the fundamental definitions of “privacy,” “security,” and “personal information.” Ross demystifies common myths around privacy, such as “you don’t need privacy unless you have something to hide,” and “our privacy is already an illusion.” She also shares various privacy practices to help users “make sure it’s legit before you submit” as well as mindful ways to deal with technology-related stress and information overload. Near the end of the book, she teaches readers how to develop a mindset that pushes back against the age of oversharing, gives users the confidence to assert “being private is OK,” and shares strategies for reinforcing one’s sense of self beyond one’s “online life.”
Fundamentally, Ross believes that “users everywhere care about privacy, but in this ever-changing experiment we understand as the modern internet-connected world, there are few handholds for us to gain some much needed perspective. How can we all play a role in a future where privacy is protected as a fundamental right?” Ross says she “developed the ebook as a tool and companion to help users get a grip and manage the stress an anxiety of overuse and non-mindful use of technology.”
Ultimately, Ross’ message to companies and users is clear: “Don’t submit to the ‘wildly unthinking behavior’ panic brings. Be present with your privacy practice and you will be able to optimize technology’s role in your life, have a consistent presence online, develop great reputation and presences, and maximize profits.” Ross dedicates her privacy role at Autodesk, her blog, and her ebook to spreading this message of mindful and intentional privacy and security. Her passion and calling is one message that can’t be overshared.
This article was originally published by the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Docket.