Posts Tagged ‘browsers’

In the mix

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

1) I’m looking forward to reading this series of blog posts from the Freedom to Tinker blog at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy on what government datasets should look like to facilitate innovation, as the first one is incredibly clear and smart.

2) The NYTimes Bits blog recently interviewed Esther Dyson, “Health Tech Investor and Space Tourist” as the Times calls her, where she shares her thoughts on why ordinary people might want to track their own data and why we shouldn’t worry so much about privacy.

3) A commenter on the Bits interview with Esther Dyson referenced this new 501(c)(6) nonprofit, CLOUD: Consortium for Local Ownership and Use of Data.  Their site says, “CLOUD has been formed to create standards to give people property rights in their personal information on the Web and in the cloud, including the right to decide how and when others might use personal information and whether others might be allowed to connect personal information with identifying information.”

We’ve been thinking about whether personal information could or should be viewed as personal property, as understood by the American legal system, for awhile now.  I’m not quite sure it’s the best or most practical solution, but I’m curious to see where CLOUD goes.

4) The German Federal Constitutional Court has ruled that the law requiring data retention for 6 months is unconstitutional.  Previously, all phone and email records had to be kept for 6 months for law enforcement purposes.  The court criticized the lack of data security and insufficient restrictions to access to the data.

Although Europe has more comprehensive and arguably “stricter” privacy laws, many countries also require data retention for law enforcement purposes.  We in the U.S. might think the Fourth Amendment is going to protect our phone and email records from being poked into unnecessarily by law enforcement, but existing law is even less clear than in Europe.  So much privacy law around telephone and email records is built around antiquated ideas of our “expectations,” with analogies to what’s “inside the envelope” and what’s “outside the envelope,” as if all our communications can be easily analogized to snail mail.  All these issues are clearly simmering to a boil.

5) Google’s introduced a new version of Chrome with more privacy controls that allow you to determine how browser cookies, plug-ins, pop-ups and more are handled on a site-by-site basis.  Of course, those controls won’t necessarily stop a publisher from selling your IP address to a third-party behavioral targeting company!

In the mix: Your unique(ish) browser fingerprint…and…No $$ for privacy.

Friday, January 29th, 2010

1) EFF’s Panopticlick project lets you see how much your browser reveals and whether that might potentially “identify” you, based on their calculation of how identifiable a set of bits might be.

Can someone with a better grasp of math than I have explain to me how their information theory works? Right now, they have let’s say 10,000 people who’ve contributed their browser info. Bruce Schneier found out he was unique in 120,000. But if millions of people tested their browsers, would his configuration really be that unique? (Lots of skepticism in the comments to Schneier’s post, too.)

2) New initiative by advertising groups to reveal that they are tracking information — a small “i” icon:

What a quote: “‘This is not the full solution, but this moves the ball forward,’ he said.”

Well, that’s the understatement of the century. Full solution to what? The advertising industry keeping regulators off their backs? Helping users understanding how targeted advertising finds them? Really, neither are the real problem. Regulators should be focusing on establishing industry guidelines for how service providers and 3rd party advertising partners store and share data.

3) Should government data be in more user-friendly formats than XML?

Or should we leave usability to disinterested 3rd parites? If the government starts releasing user-friendly data, will that simply open the door for agencies to “spin” their data to make themselves look good? Actually, right now, how do we really know the data that’s being released hasn’t been “edited” in some way? Who’s vetting these releases and what’s the process?

4) Ten years and no one is really making any money off of “privacy”?

Perhaps no one has successfully “sold” privacy (as it’s own thing) because we haven’t yet agreed on what that a “privacy product” would look like. As Mimi says, “If someone was selling something that would guarantee that I would never get any SPAM (mail or email) for the rest of my life, I would totally sign up for that.” But that might not equal “privacy” for someone else.


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