Data Safety is Personal Safety

caroline sinders
7 min readMay 27, 2022
Photo: Rob King / Unsplash

Loving America is never easy work, but it feels particularly hard this week. It feels particularly hard as I write today, after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Texas and in advance of the Supreme Court ruling on Roe vs Wade any day now.

How do we love a place that does not seem to want to love us back?

What can we do to avoid despair? This essay doesn’t have those answers, though I desperately wish it did. I don’t have those answers, and no one around me seems to have them either. There’s no wisdom to be gleaned online, or on TV or from friends or politicians. We need regulation on guns, but who am I to say what kind of regulation? That’s not the kind of research I do, that’s not the kind of expert I am- and I can’t provide any actionable insight. What I can shed light on is a way for us to try to be safe online, though I wish I knew better ways for us to be safe offline–in our communities and in our schools.

Digital Safety

Creating a checklist, or counting, or creating a plan for response has always made me feel better in times of trauma, disaster, and upheaval. This, in and of itself, is a way to manage my reaction to trauma. I have learned that I can’t control what’s happening around me but I can control the list I make in response to the disaster. In a way, doing something small, knowing that it will contribute to something like my safety, makes me feel secure.

Regardless of where we are, or who we are, or what’s happening on the news, we deserve to be–and feel–safe, both online and offline. We all deserve safety, in every aspect of our lives, and in every space where we have autonomy. I spoke earlier this week to two security experts (and personal favorites) Sarah Aoun and Cooper Quintin about how to cultivate safety online and I want to share some suggestions here.

Digital Hygiene For Basic Online Security

Digital hygiene, a term popularized by security expert Matt Mitchell, is a series of best practices that anyone, in any location, can engage in to just firm up their safety, security, and privacy online. Think of it like the digital equivalent of brushing your teeth or drinking water; there are similar, small daily things we can do to improve our own internet health.

caroline sinders

Machine Learning Designer and Researcher | Artist | Instigator| online harassment researcher, fellow digital Harvard Kennedy School