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Madeleine and the Privacy Internship: A Story About Summer 2020

posted on behalf of Madeleine Anderson

Jill Bronfman | August 13, 2020

Hello, my name is Madeleine Anderson and this summer I was welcomed into the world of privacy as an intern at Common Sense Media. As my internship has come to a close, I wanted to take a minute to share some things I’ve learned from this experience:

Ratings are more than “best-in-show” ribbons. Common Sense has developed a unique set of tools to provide ratings that cut through policies’ technical and legal jargon to speak directly to consumers about the products and services they want to use. Throughout my internship, I used these tools and completed privacy evaluations and felt good about providing a free and convenient service to consumers. I quickly learned, however, privacy ratings from Common Sense carry much more weight. Through attending meetings with the legal counsel of the apps, services, and sites we rated, I was able to see how our ratings influenced these organizations to:

- Become more transparent about how they are using data

- Update privacy policies to reflect changes the organization had already made but not documented in their privacy policy yet

- Simplify language in their policy to increase readability and understanding 

- Explore the option of splitting a service into distinct versions, with one intended for children/schools with stronger privacy protections in place

- And more!

Effective advocacy starts with listening. The term advocacy paints a picture of taking action, and speaking out on behalf of those who might be unable to speak for themselves. But what Common Sense has shown me is that a significant portion of advocacy is listening and observing. This summer, I was impressed to see how much time the privacy team dedicates to listening to teachers, educators, and school districts express what they do, what they need, and what they want in the edtech sphere. By listening first, and observing trends, the privacy team is able to conduct relevant research that meets the needs of their audience. For example, check out these projects I worked on: this report on e-reader devices and this presentation on how colleges use social media data during the admissions process

It’s a lot of fun to work for people who love their jobs. Who would have guessed? The privacy team at Common Sense Media is full of infectious enthusiasm, and it seeped into every aspect of my internship. Being surrounded by mentors who were genuinely passionate about their work and willing to share their experiences made it easy to learn and feel a part of the greater mission of the organization.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my internship with Common Sense, and would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about privacy and advocacy!