posts about or somewhat related to ‘privacy’

Now, there’s a reason why privacy is so craved universally and instinctively.

It isn’t just a reflexive movement like breathing air or drinking water. The reason is that when we’re in a state where we can be monitored, where we can be watched, our behavior changes dramatically. The range of behavioral options that we consider when we think we’re being watched severely reduce. This is just a fact of human nature that has been recognized in social science and in literature and in religion and in virtually every field of discipline. There are dozens of psychological studies that prove that when somebody knows that they might be watched, the behavior they engage in is vastly more conformist and compliant. Human shame is a very powerful motivator, as is the desire to avoid it, and that’s the reason why people, when they’re in a state of being watched, make decisions not that are the byproduct of their own agency but that are about the expectations that others have of them or the mandates of societal orthodoxy…

…[A] society in which people can be monitored at all times is a society that breeds conformity and obedience and submission, which is why every tyrant, the most overt to the most subtle, craves that system. Conversely, even more importantly, it is a realm of privacy, the ability to go somewhere where we can think and reason and interact and speak without the judgmental eyes of others being cast upon us, in which creativity and exploration and dissent exclusively reside, and that is the reason why, when we allow a society to exist in which we’re subject to constant monitoring, we allow the essence of human freedom to be severely crippled.

— Glenn Greenwald, Why Privacy Matters. TEDGlobal 2014.

But the more we study the images, the more we see that aging does not define these women. Even as the images tell us, in no uncertain terms, that this is what it looks like to grow old, this is the irrefutable truth, we also learn: This is what endurance looks like.

Susan Minot, Forty Portraits in Forty Years, NYT Magazine.

Photographer Nicholas Nixon has taken the same portrait of his wife and her three sisters every year since 1975. Go look at them. Her writing interspersed through the gallery, Susan Minot reflects beautifully:

To watch a person change over time can trick us into thinking we share an intimacy, and yet somehow we don’t believe that these poses and expressions are the final reflection of the Brown sisters. The sisters allow us to observe them, but we are not allowed in… These subjects are not after attention, a rare quality in this age when everyone is not only a photographer but often his own favorite subject. In this, Nixon has pulled off a paradox: The creation of photographs in which privacy is also the subject.


What the generation gap looks like via Venmo

Earlier today, the staff over at Quartz was having a (hilarious) conversation about the new person-to-person payment app Venmo. It turns out the over 30 crowd in the office had a hard time wrapping their heads around the idea of an app where people share how they handle their finances (a traditionally touchy and private subject) — and the sub-30 crowd explained how their friends will even use the app to joke or brag about how they spend their money.

via Qz

heatherlandy 11:52 AM
omg, it’s not bad enough that i have to know that the girl i used to sit next to in social studies just took her 4-year-old to the dentist, now i have to know that one of you paid your roommate for the phone bill???
people, you are just GIVING your privacy away! about sensitive things like money! we all need to have a big talk soon…

The conversation is a modern glimpse into how millennials prioritize their privacy, their money, and their use of social media. All in all, the perspective on all three seems to be that our connection with them can be casual, and that nothing is really private anymore anyways.


Personally, as a sub-30 representative, maybe I trust Venmo too much with my bank account information, but the convenience of it trumps everything else (not to mention it’s more reliable, cheaper, faster, and more user-friendly than PayPal). How else would I pay back my roommate for last week’s Chinese takeout??

Images from Quartz: the editorial chat room (with +30s underlined and -30s not underlined for distinction), and a transaction from person to person for “Being my friend.” Select to enlarge.

Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture. It’s not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it.

On its 25th birthday, Web creator Tim Berners-Lee calls for an online bill of rights. The Guardian, An online Magna Carta: Berners-Lee calls for bill of rights for web.

Via the Web We Want:

March 12 2014 is the World Wide Web’s 25th Birthday. On this day in 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee filed the memo that led to the creation of the Web.

To mark this occasion, Berners-Lee and two organisations close to him, the World Wide Web Foundation and the World Wide Web Consortium are inviting everyone, everywhere to wish the Web a happy birthday using #web25. They have also joined forces to create, a site where a selection of global birthday greetings will be displayed and worldwide events to celebrate the anniversary will be publicised.

And back to The Guardian:

Berners-Lee has been an outspoken critic of the American and British spy agencies’ surveillance of citizens following the revelations by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. In the light of what has emerged, he said, people were looking for an overhaul of how the security services were managed.

His views also echo across the technology industry, where there is particular anger about the efforts by the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ to undermine encryption and security tools – something many cybersecurity experts say has been counterproductive and undermined everyone’s security.

Principles of privacy, free speech and responsible anonymity would be explored in the Magna Carta scheme. “These issues have crept up on us,” Berners-Lee said. “Our rights are being infringed more and more on every side, and the danger is that we get used to it. So I want to use the 25th anniversary for us all to do that, to take the web back into our own hands and define the web we want for the next 25 years.”

The web constitution proposal should also examine the impact of copyright laws and the cultural-societal issues around the ethics of technology.

As The Guardian notes, “While regional regulation and cultural sensitivities would vary, Berners-Lee said he believed a shared document of principle could provide an international standard for the values of the open web.”

Bonus: Read Berners-Lee’s birthday announcement at where he briefly outlines some challenges and opportunities for the next 25 years.

What Surveillance Valley knows about you →

Via PandoDaily:

No source of information is sacred: transaction records are bought in bulk from stores, retailers and merchants; magazine subscriptions are recorded; food and restaurant preferences are noted; public records and social networks are scoured and scraped. What kind of prescription drugs did you buy? What kind of books are you interested in? Are you a registered voter? To what non-profits do you donate? What movies do you watch? Political documentaries? Hunting reality TV shows?

That info is combined and kept up to date with address, payroll information, phone numbers, email accounts, social security numbers, vehicle registration and financial history. And all that is sliced, isolated, analyzed and mined for data about you and your habits in a million different ways…

…Take MEDbase200, a boutique for-profit intel outfit that specializes in selling health-related consumer data. Well, until last week, the company offered its clients a list of rape victims (or “rape sufferers,” as the company calls them) at the low price of $79.00 per thousand. The company claims to have segmented this data set into hundreds of different categories, including stuff like the ailments they suffer, prescription drugs they take and their ethnicity…

…[I]f lists of rape victims aren’t your thing, MEDbase can sell dossiers on people suffering from anorexia, substance abuse, AIDS and HIV, Alzheimer’s Disease, Asperger Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Bedwetting (Enuresis), Binge Eating Disorder, Depression, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Genital Herpes, Genital Warts, Gonorrhea, Homelessness, Infertility, Syphilis… the list goes on and on and on and on.

PandoDaily reports that some 4,000 data mining companies generate about $200 billion annually. 

Visualizing Our Drone Future

Via Alex Cornell:

Our Drone Future explores the technology, capability, and purpose of drones, as their presence becomes an increasingly pervasive reality in the skies of tomorrow.

In the near future, cities use semi-autonomous drones for urban security. Human officers monitor drone feeds remotely, and data reports are displayed with a detailed HUD and communicated via a simulated human voice (designed to mitigate discomfort with sentient drone technology). While the drones operate independently, they are “guided” by the human monitors, who can suggest alternate mission plans and ask questions.

Specializing in predictive analysis, the security drones can retask themselves to investigate potential threats. As shown in this video, an urban security drone surveys San Francisco’s landmarks and encounters fierce civilian resistance.

Run Time: ~3:00.

The NSA didn’t wake up and say, ‘Let’s just spy on everybody.’ They looked up and said, ‘Wow, corporations are spying on everybody. Let’s get ourselves a copy.

— Bruce Schneier, Cryptographer and security specialist, via Reform Corporate Surveillance, a parody site of Reform Government Surveillance, created by Aral Balkan, Founder of Indie Phone

Privacy as a Human Right?

Point, via The Guardian: The United Nations moved a step closer to calling for an end to excessive surveillance on Tuesday in a resolution that reaffirms the “human right to privacy” and calls for the UN’s human rights commissioner to conduct an inquiry into the impact of mass digital snooping.

Counterpoint, via Foreign Policy: The United States and its key intelligence allies are quietly working behind the scenes to kneecap a mounting movement in the United Nations to promote a universal human right to online privacy, according to diplomatic sources and an internal American government document obtained by The Cable.

Meantime, via Techrunch: Sir Tim Berners-Lee Blasts “Insidious, Chilling Effects” Of Online Surveillance, Says We Should Be Protecting Whistleblowers Like Snowden.

Google on Friday announced that it would soon be able to show users’ names, photos, ratings and comments in ads across the Web, endorsing marketers’ products.

New York Times, Google to Sell Users’ Endorsements, via thefutureofnews

"Facebook has been aggressively marketing social endorsements, which it calls sponsored stories. For example, if you post that you love McDonald’s new Mighty Wings on the chain’s Facebook page, McDonald’s could pay Facebook to broadcast your kind words to all your friends."

"Twitter also enables advertisers to show public tweets in their ads, but requires advertisers to get the permission of the original author of a message before using it in an ad."

Nothing to see here. This is just the natural movement of companies finding ways to monetize the personal information you give them. If you don’t want to be in an ad, don’t endorse products online.

FJP: To opt out of Google’s “shared endorsements,” head here. Scroll to the bottom of the page and uncheck the box.

Related: Citing lack of use of its universal privacy controls, Facebook announced earlier this week that it was doing away with them and instead asks Users to select privacy settings on a post by post basis.

The caveat, of course, is that when Facebook says only a few percent of its Users use something, we’re talking millions of people. 


Privacy Opinions by xkcd

FJP: We’re with the sage.


Privacy Opinions by xkcd

FJP: We’re with the sage.

Dutch-Iranian Filmmaker Prank Calls The NSA

Dutch-Iranian filmmaker Bahram Sadeghi prank called the NSA to request that they help him retrieve an email that he deleted.

During the phone call, Sadeghi asks if the NSA keeps track of people’s emails and Internet data, to which the NSA representative responds: “No, we wouldn’t be able to help you. Can I take down some of your personal information, please?”

FJP: Cute, NSA. Real cute. — Krissy

Video: YouTube

"I worry a lot about the outsourcing of email at a news organization. We only have two layers of protection, right? One is technological and one is legal," Angwin says. "So certainly our lawyers at a news organization are gonna fight to protect our emails. But, if they don’t fully control them technically, they can’t mount a very good argument.

“If Gmail is handling our emails, then we have to rely on them to mount our legal arguments,” she adds. “And that’s not a situation that news organizations have been in, in the past.”

To evaluate the nothing-to-hide argument, we should begin by looking at how its adherents understand privacy. Nearly every law or policy involving privacy depends upon a particular understanding of what privacy is. The way problems are conceived has a tremendous impact on the legal and policy solutions used to solve them. As the philosopher John Dewey observed, “A problem well put is half-solved.”

— Daniel J. Solove, Why Privacy Even Matters if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on—the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

Ladar Levison, Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC, in an open letter to users.

Background: Lavabit is an encrypted email service that was reportedly used by Edward Snowden, among 350,000 other customers. The Guardian reports that the closure occurred after the company rejected “a court order for cooperation with the US government to participate in surveillance on its customers.”

Related: Lavabit isn’t alone. Silent Circle, a company that creates encrypted communication applications for text, phone and video, is preemptively shutting down its email service. In a notice to its customers, the company writes:

Silent Mail has similar security guarantees to other secure email systems, and with full disclosure, we thought it would be valuable.

However, we have reconsidered this position. We’ve been thinking about this for some time, whether it was a good idea at all. Today, another secure email provider, Lavabit, shut down their system lest they “be complicit in crimes against the American people.” We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.

Welcome to surveillance.