CPAs – apologies in advance, look away now…
We’re all familiar with the concept of budgeting – operating within our means within a myriad of possibilities. A financial budget is the quintessential budget, but we have other budgets in our personal lives – emotional budgets that influence where we sit at family or social gatherings; time budgets that regulate what we can fit in a day; and risk budgets that influence how we drive and invest. Each of us have unique budgets influenced by our current circumstances, past experiences and advice from sources we trust.
I think we also have a privacy and cyber safety budget. By this, I mean that each of us make choices that impact our online and offline privacy, and our cyber safety. This budget is made in the context of what we know and represents our capacity and willingness to be informed on the topic and take actions to improve. When we consciously or subconsciously build our privacy and cyber safety budget, it is influenced by our unique circumstances and risk budget and constrained by our financial and time budgets in particular.
When preparing your privacy and cyber safety budget, there are a number of resources online that you can go to in order to understand where you can invest your energy to make a difference. Hopefully our blog is one of those. Perhaps you listen to Michael Bazzell’s podcast. If you do, you will learn about all manner of things you can do to protect your privacy and cyber safety. But that’s not your budget. It’s probably not even Michael’s budget. It’s a set of well researched options, each with financial and time costs, and an impact on convenience. The challenge for each of us is to make some choices and then go forward as best we can.
Maybe you feel that you are doing some things to protect your privacy and cyber safety, you’d like to do more, but don’t feel that you have the capacity to do so in your budget. That’s perfectly normal, and something that Norton LifeLock has identified in their recent consumer survey. We’d all like to do more to protect our privacy and cyber safety. Convenience matters, so we want to select products and services that make privacy as convenient as possible. The best ones can have minimal to no impact on your convenience.
Your circumstances, or the circumstances of your family, community or society may undergo change, and that’s when you need to review your own budget. You try and make the best adjustments to your budget based on what is happening around you.
For example, if you lose employment or are actively seeking a new role, you may need to spend more time using services such as LinkedIn and job sites. In this case, you might ensure you review the privacy settings on these sites and review the content you have posted on social media sites and use a MySudo email address and phone number on these sites to keep your communications separate from other aspects of your life.
In another scenario, the health of a family member may cause you to provide your personal data to organizations and systems that you would have historically had no need for. In these circumstances, you may take extraordinary measures relative to your privacy budget, or how you advise a family member. Your neighbor may consider them perfectly normal, and that’s OK too.
As with any budget, when change is required, be clear and honest with yourself about what has changed, and whether that change is intended to be short term or long term. If it is short term, then keep yourself accountable. Use calendar reminders; notes on your bathroom mirror – whatever works for you – to circle back. For example, when you are successful with finding the new job of your dreams, you may re-evaluate your need for accounts on these services and choose to exercise your regulatory right to be forgotten. If the change is long term, consider what else needs to be adjusted to keep your budget balanced.
The most important thing I hope you take with you from this article is that privacy and cyber safety is contextual, not absolute. Your privacy and cyber safety budget is exactly that – yours. Be as informed as you can, make choices, own them, and do your best. When the unexpected happens, and we know that it will now more than ever, evaluate your budget, make changes and choose what you can do to keep your budget balanced. Happy privacy and cyber safety accounting!