Who is afraid of who?

I hear plenty of discussion about people’s concerns over security of data in the cloud. We actually have lots of legislation about where personal data can be held.  And we, in Ireland, tend to think in terms of it’s being OK so long as within Ireland, then Europe and then US.

Interesting piece in today’s FT referencing concerns in US about potential purchase of Yahoo by a Chinese company. Seems they have also had concerns about Deutsche Telekom acquiring a carrier in the US.  And the final reference in the article to concerns re the volume of data now held by Google.

This is moving quickly.  Privacy is on the line.  Many of us are using all sorts of cloud based services to support us in our work and our personal lives.  To be honest most users have no idea(and less interest) in where the data is held.  At least until Facebook is so on our faces in changing the rules as they see fit.

I suspect Chinese and US authorities (and many others) already have very detailed profiles on many people based on online activity.


Why will facebook not just leave us alone?

I am a regular and active facebook participant.  I enjoy the platform and some of the interaction afforded me.  But I am becoming weary.  I am beginning to think that I need an independent advisor to monitor changes implemented by Facebook and determine how I should adapt to each new change.

The news appearing over the last few days suggesting that after you log off from facebook they continue to monitor your actvities is disturbing.  Hard to believe that any company would believe that people would want this to happen.

Not surprising to read of pending actions.

Also think the partnership with music companies whereby your friends on facebook would know what you are listening to (by default) is a little creepy.  Facebook seem to claim that since we all like things social this is the way we want to go.  I don’t think so.

Will be interesting to see whether the Irish Data Protection Commissioner reaches any interesting conclusions.

Is it time for more of us to abandon Facebook?

Depressingly sloppy attitude to privacy by facebook

The world’s dominant social network is back at the centre of a privacy storm by allowing application developers to access users’ home addresses and mobile phone numbers as a matter of course.

Facebook logo
Image via Wikipedia

Pity to be kicking off 2011 blog by having to return to the subject of privacy.

Seems to be very little sign that in 2011 Facebook is intent on changing its attitude to respecting people’s privacy.  This report is depressingly in line with previous sloppy approaches to managing the security of members’ data.

One begins to wonder whether this is deliberate or a further manifestation of some level of incompetence.

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How we, the public, can help with linked open data

Promote, persuade, reward open data initiatives by government

Tom Steinberg
Image by pdcawley via Flickr

Excellent piece by Tom Steinberg pointing out what we the potential consumers of data can do to encourage government to provide the data.  One of his key messages actually covers off the wikileaks type risks – that when we do see any government body about to release anything which may undermine privacy we should draw it to their attention.

Have some concerns that some of what I have seen in Ireland on this subject is effectively encouraging government departments to release data so that we can ‘bash’ them.  This is completely pointless.

I think the real point is that there are masses of potentially useful data – which cannot be exploited while buried in archives or in pdf files.  We have not even begun to imagine the value of some of this data – when cross linked, correlated with all sorts of other data.

Thanks for taking the time to put the piece together, Tom.

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Good initiative on privacy

Know who is tracking what about you

Big Brother (David Graham) speaking to his aud...
Image via Wikipedia

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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Are we becoming more or less sociable because of social networks and the web?

Are we more or less sociable because of developments in mobile communciations, the web, social networks?

Mobile phone use as a percentage of population...
Image via Wikipedia

I grew up in an era when the television was one of the key focuses. We gathered to watch matches, major events, news programs, various popular TV shows (e.g. Italy losing 4-1 to Brazil in 1970, The First Man Landing on the Moon, Hawaii-5-0 (“Book ‘im Dano”), Dallas: who shot JR?, Stephen Roche winning the Tour de France 1987, etc). I also started my work career without mobile phones – when you met someone there far less distractions. And when you met someone socially they did not have a mobile phone.

This has all changed. In the home people are watching program reruns on their laptops. When they watch television they may also be on facebook, twitter, whatever. When we meet people more and more of them they take phone calls and monitor email/ social networks. When we meet at work people are carrying a mobile and are generally online – again monitoring inbound communications or streams of information e.g twitter, yammer, etc.

Is this anti social or pro social?

Are people being more sociable because they are open to more inbound communications for more time e.g. watching the news on television but responding to facebook posting at the same time? Are they more sociable because they are not limiting themselves to the people in their physical presence? Or are people being less sociable – because they are not focusing exclusively on the people in their immediate physical presence?

People are still limited by their ability to process information e.g. Participating in the actual conversation taking place, analysing and responding to other electronic communications, picking up and responding to the emotional reactions, managing their own emotions, committing some content to memory, etc. So, given these constraints, if there are five ongoing interactions in parallel they cannot all be getting full attention.

I do not see much point in saying that what’s happening is wrong. I do not see the technology slowing down. It becomes more pervasive by the day and more accessible. Full broadband coverage and smart phones as the norm – puts everyone online all the time. Web TV is happening – watch what you want, when you want, interact with whomsoever you like in parallel.

The traditional social skills – interacting with people in a room, by the side of a football pitch, coming out of church – are important. They are part of being human, being a member of a particular society, being able to interact, being able to build real relationships. But increasingly virtual meetings and interactions are taking place in parallel with these physical social interactions – and they may be work or personal or both.

I think the challenge is to promote an awareness and understanding of what is taking place. Younger people who have only known the always online existence may miss out on a quality of interaction which was taken for granted in previous generations. Being positive about developments must also say to older generations that there is an opportunity for far wider, less physically constrained, social relations through adopting the new technologies and social norms.

Without doubt there are and there will be many victims of what is now taking place – an environment racing ahead, less time to focus on the individual, more difficult than ever to catch up. In terms of providing support we need to relook at how we identify victims and how we can bring them back into this changing social world.

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EU to review internet privacy rules

EU to review internet privacy laws

European Union: adapted from original orthogra...
Image via Wikipedia

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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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?