Our current era has been dubbed as the ‘Information Age’ and as such, information is all valuable, accessible, and plentiful. While the evolution of online platforms and social media brings entertainment, knowledge and convenience there is a price to pay. The rapid development of technology has created a vacuum of knowledge around existing threats when engaging with this human achievement. The lack of education on privacy online has created a paradise for the current ever-growing consumerist culture.
Curtain is an app that provides a safe solution to sharing your contact information online while keeping them secure. When you create your account with Curtain, an email generated to handle all your accounts. Multiple profiles allow you to share information tailored for a group of platforms all while your information is stored encrypted on Curtain Cloud.
When signing up for an online service we are usually required to provide some personal information such as our name and an email address. Sometimes this process could a bit more intrusive and require us to provide phone number, home address, date of birth, and some other sensitive information. But how can we make sure that our personal information is safe? How can we know our information does not end up in the wrong hands?
Surely not all websites have the best security practices in place to prevent our information to be scattered all over the web, given they won’t be the ones abusing it at the first place. A possible solution is designing a system that can work as a secure bank for your information. The product should provide high level of encryption while storing the personal data on a secure server. Online services will then request to access the required information from the platform. The distributed information will be decrypted only by those third party services that the user has approved. No personal information will be stored on these online services.
Our current era has been dubbed as the ‘Information Age’ and as such, information is all valuable, accessible, and plentiful. While the evolution of online platforms and social media brings entertainment, knowledge and convenience it struggles to provide the very basic human right to privacy.
There is no doubt that big companies like Google, and Facebook rely heavily on users' information. However, with the rise of privacy concerns they are looking for ways to appear respectful and mindful of sharing users' data.
Curtain is aiming to solve this problem by providing a safe path to using web services in an utopian internet future.
Curtain was the winner of Design-Driven RGD Social Good Design Award (2015).
Research Highlights: Psychology, History, and Social Value of Privacy
Need for Privacy
Privacy is a basic human need. It is psychologically rooted in the sense of shame and the need for personal space. In modern Western cultures, it is understood as a necessary condition for individual autonomy, identity, and integrity. The desire for privacy is historically variable and has increased noticeably throughout the process of modernization. The private sphere offers the protection and freedom necessary for the undisturbed growth and self-fulfillment of the modern subject, who can participate in exchanging opinions and forming public discourse in the communicative space of the public sphere.
Trepte, S., Reinecke, L., & Springer (2011). Privacy online: Perspectives on privacy and self-disclosure in the social web. New York: Springer-Verlag.
The Social Value of Privacy
Privacy is often looked at as an individual right. The problem with framing privacy in individualistic terms is that it becomes undervalued. Often privacy is used to compensate individual emotional and reputational harms, affecting public interests such as freedom, culture, creativity, innovation, and public life. Privacy is seen as an individual convenience at the expense of society, which conflicts with the greater needs of society. To protect society, the concept of individualism and individual privacy should be incorporated with the common good, and remain equal, not superior to it.
Solove, D. J. (2008). Understanding Privacy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Changing View of Privacy
Often people protest about how governments and business are invading their privacy. Although they are not wrong in doing so, one has to wonder, how much privacy does a person need? Why do they need it? Governments show great interests in gathering information about individuals for controlling crimes and terrorism. Likewise in a consumer oriented economy, it is a matter of survival to gather necessary information to stay innovative and competitive. With the development of computers, softwares and the internet, small businesses are able to use this private information as a marketing tool. Reliable information is necessary both for good government and efficient business.
Batra, N. D. 1. (2008). Digital freedom: How much can you handle? Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
One of the main components of the issue of privacy within social media is the lack of clarity and direct communication between website and the users. Many users willingly provide their personal information to social media sites without fully understanding how their information will be used, and how it could threaten their privacy (Dusseault, 2013). These information are often circulated around multiple third-party companies and it may live simultaneously on numerous databanks; Users will not be able to remove the information entirely by simply removing it from the initial source. Even though many people are concerned about their privacy, majority of them are in favour of receiving 'free' services based on the information they are constantly providing. Services such as AdSense by Google target your interests based on your, age, gender, location, and recent Google searches, ultimately providing you with personally tailored advertising. But is it all worth it? How can you evaluate the value of your personal information, and how easily are going to give it up? How can you hold these corporations accountable for your information?
Read the full Research here.
To understand the needs and pain points of users based on the one-on-one interviews and the surveys to identify the group of people most likely to use or benefit from such solution. Many of the users are established adults who are concerned about their data being exposed and abused. Another group are the social media young adults who spend 3–4 hours daily on their social media. A smaller group are the people who are aware of the risk factors either by having the technical knowledge or having been the target of abuse of information such as identity theft.
Use the prototype below to navigate the app
Brand Concept and Logo
The logo and branding for this app was inspired by the notion of a shower curtain. A simple piece of material that gives people the comfort and reassurance that they won't be exposed even when they're most vulnerable.
For Your Consideration
The initial version of Curtain was designed in 2015 as a part of my design thesis at YSDN (York–Sheridan Design Program). Since then, there has been a numerous amount of data breaches in big companies like Facebook, Equifax, Yahoo, Uber, and many more who have negligently undermined user data and privacy. They have been unable provide a safe solution to a very basic human right. As a privacy advocate I felt the responsibility to revisit this project and update it to fit the current technologies. Given the importance of this topic I am more than eager to bring a feasible version of this product to life. If you or anyone you know may be interested in kickstarting this project please don't hesitate to reach out to me.