Earlier this month I had the chance to speak to 3rd year law students about technical issues around privacy. My contribution to the class was to point out the impossibilities and the rough edges around rules and laws that perhaps are not well thought through or well understood by those who create the laws.

The Right to be Forgotten in the EU being a good example where the search engines are required to take down search results, but the underlying content on the web pages is not necessarily changed at all. And, while this applied to search engines, it didn’t seem to apply to corporate search engines or ‘paper archives’ like newspapers.

Encryption debates in the EU and worldwide are other examples where it is possible that secure, encrypted communications will be outlawed for everyone and as such, the good guys, corporations, families, etc. will lose secure communication while the bad guys will just resort to open-source alternatives. The bad guys will still encrypt but the good guys will have it taken away. Flawed thinking.

Privacy of meta data in all the apps we use on our smart phones will be another battle ahead. As we move around town with our smart phones we record, share and broadcast:

your location, your search habits, who you call, who calls you, who you IM with, perhaps what you buy, what you look at, what you listen to, how fast you are driving, if you are home or not, perhaps your Wi-Fi credentials, what you are looking for, who your friends are, who you associate with, where you work and live, where you are taking pictures and perhaps with whom, dining choices (loyalty cards), what you are reading, where you exercise, how fast you can run, your heart rate, calories consumed, food choices, arrival and departure times, stocks you are interested in, things you needed to be reminded about, favorite sports teams, shopping lists, music preferences, weight, blood pressure, perhaps your family connections…

This data is being stored all over ‘the cloud’ on computer systems using who knows what security practices. Good luck getting all of that forgotten.

These are going to be strange years ahead where technology is tracking more about us, encryption is getting better on some services, hacking is exposing more data and the world is in conflict (as it always has been) between nations, groups and individuals.

I don’t know where this is all going to end up.

One thought on “Privacy”

  1. Hi Mark,

    For me, privacy is not about secrecy but rather appropriate flow of information. If I trust an entity with private information about myself, I expect and require that my private information be used to benefit me and NOT to harm me. Also I am fine if the entity collecting my information uses it to gain monetary benefit as long as they get my consent AND ensure that any downstream system does not use my private information to harm me. I don’t believe adding a Terms and Condition or Privacy Statement is a mean of obtaining consent. That may satisfy the Legal requirements, but not the right of humans to their privacy. Consent request should be clear and precise on how and to what extent, along with named parties, the information will be used.


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