The figure of ‘Big Brother’ is frequently invoked in any privacy debate but have you met the rest of the surveillance family? (Quick presentation at hacker meetup this weekend)
Smart users of email have learned to write as though the email were going to be read in court. Smart users of wearable computers [and those around them] now need to learn to behave as though their behavior is being judged in court.
Technology increases accountability for noncompliance with law. It creates scads of records that can be used to enforce laws. But such heightened accountability can shock people.
Article by electronic privacy information centre.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is developing a biometric identification database program called “Next Generation Identification” (NGI). When completed, the NGI system will be the largest biometric database in the world. The program is of particular interest to EPIC because of the far-reaching implications for personal privacy and the risks of mass surveillance.
The vast majority of records contained in the NGI database will be of US citizens. The NGI biometric identifiers will include fingerprints, iris scans, DNA profiles, voice identification profiles, palm prints, and photographs. The system will include facial recognition capabilities to analyze collected images. Millions of individuals who are neither criminals nor suspects will be included in the database.
read the article here
In the face of such massive state surveillance it might be tempting to give up and embrace total surveillance by everyone of everyone. However this is a misguided approach which fundamentally gives up on the principle of fighting for our rights and holding our representatives to account democratically. The right thing to do with an over reaching state is to use legal and democratic means to roll back the surveillance state. Going out and buying a spy camera in some vain hope that it will restore the balance of power does nothing except normalise the practice of surveillance and make it harder to argue against state intrusion.
Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,
We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform both government and corporate surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of large corporations and the state, and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.
For our part, we are focused on making money and so have become trapped by our own business models which compel us to gather more and more detailed information on people. We wanted to offer great internet services but in order to compete in a world where charging for services is unthinkable we have been compelled to become huge surveillance networks rather than actually providing services to paying customers in accordance with the principles of free exchange. We are forced to gather information on people without their meaningful and fully conscious consent. This is a market failure which commercial enterprises like ourselves are helpless to stop.
We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that both government and corporate surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight.
Sincerely, AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo
Unfortunately that wasn’t the letter they wrote. Rather the for profit spying agencies called upon government to stop damaging their business models by reducing trust in their surveillance networks. You can read their somewhat hypocritical letter here. Restrict government surveillance – absolutely – but why should you trust corporations any more than governments?
Don’t Surrender the Privacy Battle
Posted: Dec 8, 2012
David Brin’s recommendations in his recent article are based on the presupposition that watching “the mighty” cancels out their ability to watch us. I wish that were true, but I don’t believe it and here’s why. There are two scenarios: someone who has power over you in particular, and someone who has power over society in general.
When “the mighty” means your boss.
If your boss can watch you all the time, he can bully you in any or all aspects of your life. Whether it’s bars he objects to or, bowling alleys, or baseball games, if he can watch you all the time, he can fire you if you go to them, which means in effect he can control you.
That bars, bowling alleys and baseball games are legal and generally accepted in our society won’t stop him; he doesn’t need anyone else’s approval to fire you.
Suppose you can watch him all the time, too. If he sees you went to a baseball game, and you see he went to a bar, that knowledge won’t protect you. Denounce him all you wish for that visit to the bar, that won’t get him fired for going to a bar unless his boss happens to object. Unless you catch him doing something illegal, or despised by his boss, your counter-snooping will avail you nothing.
In other words, mutual snooping magnifies any existing power differentials.
Our society has increasing power differentials. Americans in general are more scared of losing their jobs than they were when I was young.
When “the mighty” means a high official.
Increased ability to monitor the wrongdoing of powerful officials sometimes allows us to bring them down with scandals. Surely this puts some fear into them. However, the worst things that high officials do, they do in meetings and private messages. We can’t see these with camera drones on the street; it takes heroes such as Ellsberg and Manning, and they are rare. Thus, we cannot monitor the mighty thoroughly in a way that would effectively restrain their power.
There is no substitute for privacy. Fortunately, we can maintain our privacy — by limiting by law what companies and the state can collect on a regular basis about everyone. For instance, instead of requiring that ISPs and phone companies keep data on everyone’s contacts, laws could forbid keeping this data except for people already placed on a surveillance list by court order. We must require new systems to be designed for privacy rather than to collect all possible data.
It is not too late to protect privacy pretty well, but we must insist on it — which means, not heed the people who say it is hopeless.
I actually lived in a transparent society at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab from 1971 to 1981. The lab’s timesharing computer had no security — the hackers who wrote the Incompatible Timesharing System considered security measures “fascism”, and intentionally did not implement any in the system we were going to use. As a result, anyone on the Arpanet could log in and do anything, and anyone could watch what anyone else did. This resulted in a community where people treated each other decently.
I was the most faithful defender of this transparent community. However, I recognized subsequently that it was good to live in precisely because we did not have power disparities to be magnified by the transparency into oppression. The administration of the lab was not inclined to care about what people did on the side as long as their work was good.
[From Richard Stallman |Don’t Surrender the Privacy Battle Copyright (c) 2012 Richard Stallman Verbatim copying and redistribution of this entire page are permitted provided this notice is preserved.] [image CC-Atr-Sh by Joffley]
Today I'd like to discuss recent article from the Atlantic entitled "They're watching you at work" (hat tip Deb Gieringer).
In the article they describe what they call "people analytics," which refers to the new suite of managerial tools meant to help find and evaluate employees of firms. The first generation of this stuff happened in the 1950's, and relied on stuff like personality tests.
The Daily Dot and various other news sources are reporting another Google Glass user has been ejected from a Restaurant. One would have expected that the Glass explorer might have just taken them off, but apparently he refused, there was a dispute and was asked to leave. The event became public when the Glass Explorer posted on Facebook demanding an apology and punishment of the member of staff who asked him to remove it. “If the staff member was in the wrong and lost the owner money last night and also future income as well, that this income be deducted from her pay or her termination.“ which seems like an overreaction to a simple request.
The owner of the Lost Lake Cafe & Lounge told Forbes
“We’re not trying to be jerks at all. If you walked in here with a video camera we’d ask you to stop. If you’re speaking too loudly on a cellphone we’d ask you to leave. That should be obvious. With Glass, there should be etiquette around its use, and we feel that in a setting like a café or bar they should just be taken off and not used.”
We whole heartedly agree with this statement. Stop the Cyborgs is not anti glass we just want to proactively shape the norms around it’s use. The issue is simple politeness. Having a $1000 toy strapped to your face doesn’t mean you have a god given right to be use it anywhere you want. Individual businesses can decide on the kind of environment that they want to create for their customers. Some places may choose to create hyper connected environments where social media, documenting and sharing is an intrinsic part of the experience. Other places may choose to create secluded environments where the priority is semi-private the ‘in the moment’ experience.
However leaving it up to the market is not enough it is also important for society as a whole that we maintain some public space which is semi-private. One would not want a world where it is impossible to find a cafe where your allowed to check your email but far more importantly one would not want a world where it is impossible to have a private dinner, a semi-secret meeting or carefree night out. A world where every moment is surveilled, publicised and commoditized like some gigantic reality TV show. The former makes life mildly inconvenient the latter makes life intolerable.
BTW if you want massive amounts of free publicity for your business banning glass seems a good way to go. You can download signs here.
From 11 am New Academic Building, Goldsmiths, University of London
Great article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung by Evgeny Morozov
[Silicon valley] knows how to talk about tools but is barely capable of talking about social, political, and economic systems that these tools enable and disable, amplify and pacify. [This is] why the “digital debate” leads us astray.
If Ronald Reagan was the first Teflon President, then Silicon Valley is the first Teflon Industry: no matter how much dirt one throws at it, nothing seems to stick. While “Big Pharma,” “Big Food” and “Big Oil” are derogatory terms used to describe the greediness that reigns supreme in those industries, this is not the case with “Big Data.” This innocent term is never used to refer to the shared agendas of technology companies. What shared agendas? Aren’t these guys simply improving the world, one line of code at a time?
Something odd is going on here. While we understand that the interests of pharmaceutical, food and oil companies naturally diverge from our own, we rarely approach Silicon Valley with the requisite suspicion. Instead, we continue to treat data as if it were a special, magical commodity that could single-handedly defend itself against any evil genius who dares to exploit it.
How do you spot “the digital debate”? Look for arguments that appeal to the essences of things – of technology, information, knowledge and, of course, the Internet itself. Thus, whenever you hear someone say “this law is bad because it will break the Internet” or “this new gadget is good because that’s what technology wants,” you know that you have left the realm of the political – where arguments are usually framed around the common good – and have entered the realm of bad metaphysics. In that realm, what you are being asked to defend is the well-being of phantom digital gods that function as convenient stand-ins for corporate interests.
Read full article here