Privacy of email in US

Henceforth government agencies will require a warrant to gain access to private email.

Interesting and significant decision in US yesterday – henceforth a warrant will be required by the government in seeking access to personal email accounts.  Previously government was accessing email on basis of a subpoena.  Read the details.

Good initiative on privacy

Know who is tracking what about you

Big Brother (David Graham) speaking to his aud...
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There are any number of companies out there tracking your presence on the web – gathering information for the purposes of targeting you to purchase product.  Good to see an initiative emerging from some of those most proficient in tracking your online activities – to let you see what they are tracking and let you opt out.

George Orwell’s 1984 vision of Big Brother and surveillance is well and truly with us – whether through companies tracking our online presence or people constantly photographing/ videoing us and sharing it on the web.  The complaints about Google and Facebook are well documented.  The concerns about security of healthcare records, the potential risks of cloud computing…we will see more and more of this in the press.

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Using anonymous credentials to assist in managing privacy

May want to use anonymous credentials to safeguard privacy

Interesting post from Dave Raggett on the subject of anonymous credentials.  We need these types of solutions if people are going to continue to post on the web.   Speaks directly to some of the issues raised by Eric Schmidt when he spoke of people wanting to change their identities.  Mind you will not do anything for those who have already overstepped the mark.

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EU to review internet privacy rules

EU to review internet privacy laws

European Union: adapted from original orthogra...
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NY Times reports today that EU will review internet privacy rules.  Not surprising given the various stories about Google inadvertently gathering private data and facebook partners leaking user data.

‘…Viviane Reding, the justice commissioner, announced its intention to overhaul the European Union’s data protection rules to take account of the development of social networking, personalized advertising and other Web services that have raised privacy concerns. The new legislation, set to be introduced next year, would replace rules that date to 1995…’

On a separate note for any of you concerned re Streetview images uploaded by Google see this link from the Data Protection Commissioner’s Site (Ireland)

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Facebook, location and deals – is it worth foregoing privacy?

For what benefit are you willing to disclose your present physical location?

Image representing Foursquare Solutions as dep...
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I have tried google latitude in the past – did not like it.  Did not seem to have enough fellow relevant participants to make it worth mu while saying where I was.  Recently been experimenting with FourSquare.  And now that I have my new android, checkin has never been easier.  However – again not sure what I want to tell the world that I’ve checked in at the local football ground on Saturday morning.

Seems facebook now onto the idea that there must be benefit to the user who shares his/her location.  And one idea is to offer deals which are relevant to your particular location.   So I guess if I were in town and you offered me a taxi fare at 60% discount from that location within the next hour I may be interested.  The quality of the deals would drive my willingness to reveal my location.  and it’ back to the old maxim: no personalisation without transparency.

Levi Sumagaysay’s piece in Silicon in Good Morning Silicon Valley captures most of this very well.

The privacy debate (or the privacy sale) continues.

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What was Google thinking?

UK not happy with what Google did and planning an audit of Google.

Christopher Graham, the UK Information Commiss...
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UK’s Information Commissioner has changed his mind – there was a significant breach by Google. This piece on the BBC website summarises the change of mind.

This is the but that’s hard to believe: ‘Google discovered that, along with legitimate data about the location of wi-fi hotspots, the cars were also hoovering up personal details from unsecured networks, known as payload data’. What were they thinking?

Bad enough that Google has been photographing everyone’s property –  and a post photograph opt out seems a very limited protection for those who object to the intrusion of privacy.  But ‘hoovering up personal details from unsecured networks’ does not seem like a smart way to win and influence friends.

I think Google has been a pioneer and has contributed in a hugely positive way to society.  But they need less gaff’s on the privacy front.

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Company laptops being stolen

Employee uses security cable to protect company laptop at home

Benq laptop
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Nice piece by Lucy Kellaway (Financial Times) syndicated by the Irish Times – on the subject of company laptops being stolen.  Perhaps she is being a little provocative – but much of Lucy’s angle on security of the company laptop is ‘on the money’.

You want to promote an understanding with company employees of the risks associated with downloading confidential data (including any details of how to access confidential systems) to laptops and/or other devices.  It is one of may risks.  I would tend to agree with Ms. Kellaway – the security cable around the leg of the piano is not much of a deterrent.

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Ongoing commentary re privacy and social networks

Threat to privacy posed by social networks

The editorial in this morning’s Irish Times returns to the subject of privacy an the threat posed by social networks:

For some, new technologies raise troubling questions about Orwellian surveillance and the dangerous blurring of the public and private spheres. Most of these businesses, after all, are based on the premise that you, the user, are the product, with your personal data mined for the benefit of advertisers and other commercial interests. Such concerns are legitimate, but they are not the whole story; new technologies also offer potential for positive social change, greater accountability and transparency. They require governments and organisations to engage in more meaningful ways with their citizens and clients, and they can harness the power of the crowd to make sure that this actually happens.

I am reminded of comments previously made by analysts in this sector:  No personalisation without transparency.  It is a question of balance between what you are willing to share in order to receive relevant content/ suggestions.  Unfortunately ‘willing to share’ is often replaced by ‘inadvertent sharing’.

Interesting to see the editor balancing the threats posed with the potential benefits in terms of greater transparency and accountability.  I think the most practical step the Irish Government could take in this respect would be to participate actively in the growing movement of publishing data using linked open data formats.

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Do you want to share your current location?

Am currently experiencing real reluctance amongst the general population to disclose their physical location via social networks. This I think relates to the privacy issue.

I have tried Google Latitude and I am currently trying FourSquare.  and, doubtless, when the Facebook option is available in Ireland I will also try it.  But what are the practical applications for this technology, for me?

As with all of these technologies they depend on reaching a level of penetration in the general community (more specifically in your won community) to make them useful.

Seemed to me the following had potential: family at various events over the weekend – if we share our location can assist in tracking people down, organising lifts to/from matches, etc.  Indeed if used by all coaches of all teams within the various sports clubs then may help in terms of getting players and coaches to right venues.

This will not work for me at this stage.  My experience, to date, is that the large majority of my firends do nto want to share location information – down to basic privacy and personal preferences.  In fact, a significant minorityu do not want to have anything to so with social networks.

I think some form of integration between my diary and my location software would be useful – and may encourage greater use.

For now I will continue to test the various products.  Perhaps it’s a generational thing, perhaps it’s a cultural  thing, perhaps  it’s a question of adoption, perhaps it’s a question of privacy.

Today’s Irish Times has a good piece on this subject.

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Google making progress re privacy issues

US government no longer has an issue with google re privacy

Looks like the US government is less concerned than some European governments re Google and data privacy…’Google has whacked one mole out of many, at least in the United States, where the government announced yesterday it has closed its investigation into SpyFi, the Street View data-collection controversy’.  For more detail

I think this speaks to different cultural outlooks on privacy across different jurisdictions.  Is this down to the fact that the notion of ‘privacy’ is disappearing in certain countries?