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Archive for the ‘privacy’ Category

The Internet With A Human Face

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The Internet With A Human Face:

Public and private surveillance are in a curious symbiosis with each other.

A few weeks ago, the sociologist Janet Vertesi gave a talk about her efforts to keep Facebook from learning she was pregnant. Pregnant women have to buy all kinds of things for the baby, so they are ten times more valuable to Facebook’s advertisers.

At one point, Vertesi’s husband bought a number of Amazon gift cards with cash, and the large purchase triggered a police warning. This fits a pattern where privacy-seeking behavior has become grounds for suspicion. Try to avoid the corporate tracking system, and you catch the attention of the police instead.

As a wise man once said, if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

But there are also dangerous scenarios that don’t involve government at all, and that we don’t talk enough about.

I’ll use Facebook as my example. To make the argument stronger, let’s assume that everyone currently at Facebook is committed to user privacy and doing their utmost to protect the data they’ve collected.

What happens if Facebook goes out of business, like so many of the social networks that came before it? Or if Facebook gets acquired by a credit agency? How about if it gets acquired by Rupert Murdoch, or taken private by a hedge fund?

What happens to all that data?

[Great piece. Beautifully expresses so many of my worries about the current trend in technology.]

Written by Daniel

May 29, 2014 at 4:51 pm

The danger that all reporters now face

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David Miranda, schedule 7 and the danger that all reporters now face | Alan Rusbridger | Comment is free | The Guardian:

During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian’s reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government’s intention. Prior restraint, near impossible in the US, was now explicitly and imminently on the table in the UK. But my experience over WikiLeaks – the thumb drive and the first amendment – had already prepared me for this moment. I explained to the man from Whitehall about the nature of international collaborations and the way in which, these days, media organisations could take advantage of the most permissive legal environments. Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that Greenwald lived in Brazil?

The man was unmoved. And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. “We can call off the black helicopters,” joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

Whitehall was satisfied, but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age. We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won’t do it in London. The seizure of Miranda’s laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald’s work.

The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes – and, increasingly, it looks like “when”.

[We have no idea what we've done. We'll find out. After the fact.]

Written by Daniel

August 20, 2013 at 8:50 am

Posted in news, privacy, tech

The Surveillance Speech: A Low Point in Barack Obama’s Presidency

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The Surveillance Speech: A Low Point in Barack Obama’s Presidency – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic:

On Friday, President Obama spoke to us about surveillance as though we were precocious children. He proceeded as if widespread objections to his policies can be dispatched like a parent answers an eight-year-old who has formally protested her bedtime. He is so proud that we’ve matured enough to take an interest in our civil liberties! Why, he used to think just like us when he was younger, and promises to consider our arguments. But some decisions just have to be made by the grownups. Do we know how much he loves us? Can we even imagine how awful he would feel if anything bad ever happened while it was still his job to ensure our safety? *

By observing Obama’s condescension, I don’t mean to suggest tone was the most objectionable part of the speech. The disinformation should bother the American people most. The weasel words. The impossible-to-believe protestations. The factually inaccurate assertions. 

They’re all there.

[Are any of us really shocked? This has been going on since he got into office. Was this the change you sought?]

Written by Daniel

August 12, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Everyone wants what the NSA has…

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→ Other Agencies Clamor for Data NSA Compiles:

Americans demand no privacy rights and enforce no privacy rights, and therefore have no privacy rights.

But suppose we did. How are we doing at enforcing our most basic, fundamental, long-held legal rights? Let’s see… nope, nope, nope, nope.


[Spot on.]

Source: Marco.org

Written by Daniel

August 6, 2013 at 6:57 am

Posted in advocacy, news, privacy

A customer experience issue you can’t avoid any longer: the PXA

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A customer experience issue you can’t avoid any longer: the PXA:

Any product that shares data needs will engage this issue sooner or later. And it may seem like a lot to handle, for the executives and product managers involved. But times have changed. It’s no longer enough, as in years past, to have the lawyers draft up a privacy policy to slap onto the homepage. Users want control of their data, and if they can’t get it from your product, they’ll move on to a competitor.

[We pay a ton of attention to this issue. Still working at it.]

Source: Creative Good » Blog – Article Feed

Written by Daniel

June 25, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Posted in advocacy, privacy, tech

Scripting News: The quiet war in tech.

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Scripting News: The quiet war in tech.:

I said a while back that if you want to understand politics you have to become deeply immersed in tech. The political reporters and bloggers have been totally too casual about that, even the smart relatively open-minded ones, and that even includes Glenn Greenwald. Is he really prepared to listen to Snowden, or can he just report an approximation of what Snowden tells him? It’s the latter, because as smart as Greenwald is, he hasn’t been spending the last N years schooling himself in the technology that we’ve built our existence around.

So think about it, how are we going to boot up the intelligence we need to make sense of this situation in time to make a difference?

Serious question, and heavy times.

[Go read. Thoughts?]

Source: Scripting News

Written by Daniel

June 16, 2013 at 9:05 am

Posted in privacy, security, tech

President Obama’s Dragnet – NYTimes.com

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President Obama’s Dragnet – NYTimes.com:

Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.

The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers.

Based on an article in The Guardian published Wednesday night, we now know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency used the Patriot Act to obtain a secret warrant to compel Verizon’s business services division to turn over data on every single call that went through its system. We know that this particular order was a routine extension of surveillance that has been going on for years, and it seems very likely that it extends beyond Verizon’s business division. There is every reason to believe the federal government has been collecting every bit of information about every American’s phone calls except the words actually exchanged in those calls.

[Those of you who swore to me (and at me) that this President would be different, and that things were going to change… I'm now collecting all the rewards, drinks, etc. you promised.]

Written by Daniel

June 11, 2013 at 6:29 am

Posted in news, privacy

Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’

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Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’ – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education:

One such harm, for example, which I call aggregation, emerges from the fusion of small bits of seemingly innocuous data. When combined, the information becomes much more telling. By joining pieces of information we might not take pains to guard, the government can glean information about us that we might indeed wish to conceal. For example, suppose you bought a book about cancer. This purchase isn’t very revealing on its own, for it indicates just an interest in the disease. Suppose you bought a wig. The purchase of a wig, by itself, could be for a number of reasons. But combine those two pieces of information, and now the inference can be made that you have cancer and are undergoing chemotherapy. That might be a fact you wouldn’t mind sharing, but you’d certainly want to have the choice.

[A great read an why we're about to make a huge mistake in the US. Reductionism fails again on this issue. Looked at as a whole, it is frightening.]

Written by Daniel

June 10, 2013 at 7:25 am

Posted in advocacy, news, personal, privacy

Strongbox and Aaron Swartz : The New Yorker

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Strongbox and Aaron Swartz : The New Yorker:

Aaron Swartz was not yet a legend when, almost two years ago, I asked him to build an open-source, anonymous in-box. His achievements were real and varied, but the events that would come to define him to the public were still in his future: his federal criminal indictment; his leadership organizing against the censorious Stop Online Piracy Act; his suicide in a Brooklyn apartment. I knew him as a programmer and an activist, a member of a fairly small tribe with the skills to turn ideas into code—another word for action—and the sensibility to understand instantly what I was looking for: a slightly safer way for journalists and their anonymous sources to communicate.

[An amazing story. What other bits and pieces are hanging around from AS?]

Written by Daniel

May 17, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Posted in privacy, security, tech

Strobist: How to Avoid Dealing With the Police When Shooting in Public

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Strobist: How to Avoid Dealing With the Police When Shooting in Public:

I know my rights. I carry The Card. But I also know that on the street, the police have the ability to wreck a shoot. This one was not time-sensitive, but many are. And even worse, they can write you up, take you in — and even put you on any of a number of secret lists in our new DHS Secret Police State.

I know this because a very good friend of mine asserted his rights to — get this — a rent-a-cop private security consultant while shooting a twilight shot of a hotel during a commercial job. He made the mistake of being near train tracks where, according to the private security guy, the Constitution was no longer in effect.

My friend won the argument, but lost the war. The security guard/terrorist detection specialist turned out to be a vindictive jerk. The photog is now on an “increased scrutiny list” that adds a long and special wait at TSA any time he flies.

That sucks. And it’s not right — or even legal. But that is the environment we are now in. Like it or not, we have to deal with ignorant bystanders and/or ultimately, uniformed police officers potentially screwing up our shoots. Or worse.

[What a mess. But not a bad plan.]

Written by Daniel

February 27, 2012 at 9:56 am


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