An Examination of Our Privacy

If there is something that humans value the most, it is their right to privacy. No matter what job they have, how much money they make, or how much of a social butterfly they might be – people enjoy being able to swaddle back into their personal cocoon and just exist without being bothered.

While privacy was something that was found in excess in the childhood years of our parents, in today’s world privacy is actually quite hard to come by. Surveillance cameras silently record our every move in public spaces. Our phone’s microphones listen in to our conversations. Social media is now the main street where people openly shame and expose others. Private messages, DMs, and texts are all victim to becoming public information just by someone screenshotting the conversation and “accidentally” distributing them to their followers.

Point is, it’s becoming harder and harder to just live and be happy when everything you’re doing is being watched, recorded, and held over your head as a pseudo-threat. To make matters worse, companies are employing loopholes and roadblocks in order to force users to give up more of their information. While some information is necessary for security reasons and customer satisfaction, there are a lot of things behind the scenes (like the selling/distribution of said information) that users don’t know about. In today’s blog post, I’ll be taking a look at Canva’s Privacy Policy and seeing what a typical app does with the information you input in order to use their service.

Making Life Easier – Maybe?

Canva is a simplified graphic design application that uses templates and a drag-and-drop format to make it easy for a layperson to create social media images, graphics, publications, and logos. The tool was initially website-based, but in 2016, Canva rolled out its mobile app in an effort to capitalize on the market of mobile content creators who were blowing up on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. The goal of this tool was to make life simpler through the no-fuss graphic design process – but does it really save its users from headaches? Let’s look at what you need to give up in order to use Canva.

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”
– Edward Snowden

To sign up, you need to enter your name and create a username and password. If you are too lazy to type that much or remember ANOTHER password, Canva offers a third-party login through your Facebook or Google account. While this might be convenient, in the privacy policy it states that Canva can glean your personal information as well as any information you have shared with that third-party. While you can unlink the two services, it is difficult to do so in an appropriate manner. This makes sense as most apps don’t want to easily let go of the flood of intel Facebook or Google provides.

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Canva account sign up page

When you use the Canva service, cookies are dropped onto your device so that they can track your visitation and action habits. These are all stored so that they can better serve up ads or suggestions for additional content to view or people to follow. While this is helpful in some instances, it means that you are being watched throughout your entire app transaction. In some cases, you are also being tracked in real life via location data. GPS and location functions on your phone could be automatically sent to the app if you do not turn that toggle off. Some applications like Google Maps or Waze require your location so that they can guide you to a real-life destination or report upon things like traffic or accidents that may impede your ability to get to a place on time. When you think about it, it’s really hard to make the connection why Canva would need access to your location data when the tool is for cloud-based graphic design. In the policy, it states it gathers this information to “offer you better service,” but I’m not buying that generic blanket statement.

“Plain English” or “Plain Wrong?”

After looking at the entirety of the Canva privacy policy, it seems like a fourth of what they do with the information they receive from the user is to help with transactions/customer service and the other three-fourths are for them to glean advertising or targeting insight on you and your social circle. What intrigued me most about Canva’s privacy policy was the fact they had a “plain English” summary of their privacy policy to the right of each one of their sections. I honestly laughed out loud at this because that is not what it was AT ALL.

“Plain English” or “plain language” is used by the United States government to ensure that the public can understand official communications. What plain language is NOT, is a bastardized, overtly-cheery, and selective translation of what is actually being said. From what I can tell from quickly scanning the policy, it is already written in plain language. While there is a disclaimer at the top saying the “plain English” summary doesn’t capture all of the terms – a lazy reader would just take those tidbits and miss all of the important meat within the policy.

I feel as though that Canva might want to pursue the idea of removing those side “plain English” sections or at least incorporate those as the first sentence or sub-head to each section in bold. This solution combines what they are trying to say in their snippets but encourages the viewer to complete reading the entire section. Having the left and right sides is a subliminal way to have people ignore the real information that is trying to be communicated.

Another device they use to subliminally trick readers is under their “Sharing Your Information” section. Under that first header, they state, “We will not rent or sell your information into third parties outside Canva and its group companies (including any parent, subsidiaries and affiliates) without your consent, except as noted in this section.” The section in question is then followed by an astounding 10 paragraphs – accompanied by bulleted lists. By beginning the section off with “we will not…” many people feel secure and click off. But when you keep reading, you’ll find that there is so much more complexity in who is allowed to see your personal information and what Canva is allowed to do with it. In short, if you are concerned with what your mobile applications are doing with your information – don’t skimp on the privacy policy! Read it and learn how to protect yourself to a degree that you feel comfortable with.

Do you have any great tips about how to manage your personal information online? Share it in the comments below.

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