Tag Archives: Security

Depressingly sloppy attitude to privacy by facebook

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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

Tom Steinberg
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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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What does Wikileaks mean for open data initiatives?

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The most recent Wikileaks of approx. 260,000 documents has the focus of governments across the globe.  There is much gnashing of teeth – along the lines of ‘see what happens when you share data’.  And there are many calls for less sharing of information.

This is a matter of national (and international) security when sensitive, confidential information, never intended for public consumption, is leaked.  While some of the tit bits will be of interest to the general public the more serious issues arise where national security or the security of individuals is put at risk.

Has this anything to do with the move towards encouraging governments and/or corporates to publish more data in formats in which people can use the data?  In principle, no.  In practice it may have some impact.

Obviously there is always a risk that someone may leak confidential or secure information.  Security clearance for those handling the information, monitoring of individual behaviour, restrictions on removal of data from secure platforms, etc – are all key measures in safeguarding such information.

This is quite different from a government department sharing data with the public where the data is of public interest e.g. analysis of spend on education by region or by age group, analysis of crime statistics by city or town.  But there are those who will look to confuse the two – where greater accountability is feared.

One final thought re open data – I am not sure that in all situations people have thought through the potential implications of publishing lots of data ie the ability of those receiving the data to cross reference and correlate that data.  In doing so these data analysts may point out trends that have gone unnoticed to date – while the data has resided in separate silos.

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Company laptops being stolen

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

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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