pirates win seat in EU parliament

According to Wired’s Threat Level blog:

Sweden’s Pirate Party won a seat in the European Union Parliament, swept in Sunday amid outrage over a new copyright law and the convictions of the four founders of The Pirate Bay.

The party, formed to protest copyright law, took 7.1 percent of votes in Sweden and one of that country’s 18 seats in the European Parliament. The party stands for radical reform of copyright legislation, abolition of the patent system and guaranteed online-privacy rights.

Check out wikipedia for background on the Pirate Party or visit the official Pirate Party website.

wiretapping – at&t’s new marketing strategy

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now, but what with article deadlines, ecycolpedia entries, the NUDA Summer School, and Euro-SSIG, I’m just now getting around to it. Back in June, at&t briefly flirted with simplify. organize. liberate?the idea of using the scandal surrounding their illegal wiretapping of U.S. citizens’ domestic and international communications as an actual marketing strategy. At the time I took screen shots and video of the campaign that was mockingly dubbed by at&t as “The Online Liberation Movement (sm).” Shortly after going live at&t pulled the entire campaign in light of public outrage.

“The Online Liberation Movement (sm),” with its “simplify. organize. liberate.” motto,  is a collection of fictitious individuals who seek cyber-liberation through at&t’s online billing system (of course). Most interesting is “Ms. Suspicious,” a member of the “movement” who is presented as a paranoid, privacy-obsessed and “suspicious” customer. Below is a video recording I made of the ad, note Ms. Suspicious’s “keep out!” post-it on her laptop and the poster behind her of Uncle Sam’s hand covering a man’s mouth above the words “SILENCE means security.”

So, why is Ms. Suspicious so damn… suspicious? It couldn’t have anything to do with at&t’s illegal partnership with the NSA to spy on Americans, their development of a mass surveillance programing language,  their recent censorship of Pearl Jam, or their anti-free speech “can’t-criticize-us” contracts that all their customers must abide by. Nope, Ms. Suspicious is just some freaky civil libertarian who needs to calm down and find liberation through at&t’s new online banking system…

global privacy standards

While browsing I came across this gem: “Google Calls for International Standards on Internet Privacy.” The article discusses Peter Fleischer’s (Google’s global privacy counsel) recent call for the development of international privacy standards. The article does a fairly good job at presenting the nuance of the privacy debate – summarizing Fleischer’s argument (that current “fragmentary international privacy laws” are burdensome to companies and harmful to citizens, thus a coherent set of minimum privacy standards should be established at a global level) while addressing Google’s mediocre privacy policies.

Discussing the recent Google/DoubleClick merger and fears that it will “aggregate too much consumer data in the hands of one company,” the article notes:

Google, under investigation for violating global privacy standards, is calling for international privacy standards,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a critic of the DoubleClick merger. “It’s somewhat like someone being caught for speeding saying there should be a public policy to regulate speeding.

Fleischer’s argument, in its entirety, can be found here. His point that data should be given the same consideration as other global flows in the informational age – namely copyrights, airplanes and pandemics – is certainly worth entertaining.

In today’s inter-connected world, no one country and no one national law by itself can address the global issues of copyright or airplane safety or influenza pandemics. It is time that the most globalised and transportable commodity in the world today, data, was given similar treatment.

Global standards which recognize the right to privacy as a basic human right in the informational age is certainly needed. Additionally, I would argue that the mass collection and aggregation of consumer data should be public record – whether assembled by the State or commerce, information on the public should be public information. Current standards at Google and Microsoft is to anonymize consumer data after 18 months. Once anoymized why not make these data sets public record?

In citing the APEC Privacy Framework, which “suggests that privacy legislation should be primarily aimed at preventing harm to individuals from the wrongful collection and misuse of their information,” Fleischer suggests that the “preventing harm” principle be applied to the proposed global privacy standards. But as the washingtonpost article points out, a focus on “preventing harm” is different than a focus on “privacy as a right.” Whereas a focus on “preventing harm” burdens consumers with the responsibility to prove they have been harmed, a focus on “privacy as a right” implies preventative policies that ensure a consumer or citizen’s right to privacy is not violated. How does a consumer prove they have been harmed let alone prove that their privacy has been violated?

I’m with Fliescher when he says:

Data is flowing across the Internet and across the globe. That’s the reality. The early initiatives to create global privacy standards have become more urgent and more necessary than ever. We must face the challenge together.

But looking at the recent NSA wiretapping fiasco which has allowed the illegal surveillance of innocent citizens, precisely because those spied on have no means to prove they were spied on, alarms me. We know telecommunication companies like at&t participated in government surveillance but because no consumer has yet to demonstrate harm – or even that they specifically were spied on – the surveillance program remains. In my opinion, any global privacy standard must – at a minimum -include the right to privacy.

“keep prying eyes off your computer”

3M commercial for a computer ‘privacy filter,’ observed on TV.

:: sent wirelessly via blackberry

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