Privacy has been an on-going issue with the internet, and with the last few years it’s certainly started growing back into the public consciousness once more. But the one thing that does seem to be a key consideration that doesn’t always get recognised is the balance between the security needed to provide online privacy versus actual ease of use of online applications. To truly have privacy, you need security. You need secure connections, you need security to protect your computer’s identity, you need security to stop people reading your email and detecting your web usage. But, the more security methods you have between sitting down and using the internet, the less likely you are to do so on a whim.
Consider the way various email encryption programs have been hailed as a saviour of privacy over the last few decades, but then swiftly fizzle due to the complications of actually using them with minimal effort. People will say they want their privacy, but they also want to be able to just turn on their computer, open their email and send one. If suddenly they have to take another dozen steps to make sure the person they’re sending to can read it, while making it difficult for others to do the same… People crave ease of use.
So unless we can develop the security measures to work in the background or as part of one or two simple mouse-clicks, those measures will never survive a large percentage of the population using them. They’ll either be used infrequently, or have a short craze before people get tired of going through a dozen steps just to send an email.
Thus, we need to find that balance. Practical usage means security that works, but without seriously inconveniencing the average user. If you don’t consider that aspect, it’ll only end up as another good idea that never breached that threshold of awesome