Privacy Tips

It’s 2021 — Let’s Stop Expecting Women to Share their Personal Information

4 min
*At cloaked, we see you. While we each have personal stories and struggles of invasions of privacy, today we are acknowledging the specific hardships women, and any who identify as women, have experienced in their lives.

When B. was asked to share her phone number while working at a local restaurant, there was an awkward moment of silence.

During this moment, she thought:

“What if I refuse?”

“Will it upset him if I don’t give it?”

“Is it riskier to say no and potentially upset this guy, or to give it to him and have him use it to find out where I live?”

It was a long moment complete with the same inner dialogue — sadly — experienced by many women who find themselves in similar situations.

And it’s not okay.

While not every person that asks for your number in public is a potential axe murderer, the feeling of obligation to give strangers an “in” to your personal world is where the real problem is.

Why are we like this?

Media and historical portrayals of women passing numbers to men in smoky bars, cafes, or even grocery stores have conditioned many of us to believe that casually sharing our personal information is an act of common courtesy.

In reality, it’s an unjustified social pressure that corners women who, otherwise, would avoid beginning a relationship with this other person.

And as many of you know — these one-sided exchanges align more closely with a Stephen King storyline rather than the Hallmark warm and fuzzies we’re conditioned to expect. Charming coincidence and token damsels in distress are glass ceilings that should’ve been annihilated decades ago.

Unfortunately, this type of sexism is still widely accepted. Many of us are told that this is the “norm,” or even something akin to flattery. And it’s a feeling (speaking as a woman who’s lived through this scenario over and over again like a bad version of Groundhog Day) that nearly every woman will experience at least once in her life.

Centuries ago, or maybe just the 80s, Don Draper might have had no problem invading your privacy…but now, the stakes are higher, and anyone can jump on the internet and use your personal number to find your physical address, research your place of business, or even find info on the people you spend the most time with. It’s scary.

And until society develops a different social stance on the information women “owe” men (which is absolutely nothing), there will be a use case for first person data protection.

This problem goes way beyond phone numbers.

Women are experiencing inequalities in digital privacy due to tech savvy interlopers who steal social media images and data from female-focused apps.

According to the Women’s Media Center, even menstruation apps like Maya have become a troubling source of privacy issues because of the sale of data to companies like Facebook, who use it to target female audiences based on mood and self-reported health issues.

This problem is further compounded by a lack of female representation in the tech industry. While the gap is slowly closing, it’s still significant enough to impact the level of awareness of gender-based privacy needs.

What can you do to protect yourself?

As a woman (and coming from a female author), it’s important to educate yourself on digital privacy and to become more aware of the way that your data is being used.

Knowledge is power and understanding the nature of consumer protection, your right to privacy, how to lock down your accounts, and how to interpret privacy conditions provided by your favorite apps can help you navigate the internet in a way that’s smarter and safer.

Want to continue learning more about the consumer protection and online privacy space?

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