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Tag Archives: privacy

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ITU Telecom World highlights big data for development session

An unexpectedly detailed description of our big data session was included in the Day 3 highlights: Big data is usually in the headlines for the wrong reasons – surveillance, exploitation of personal data for commercial or governmental ends, intrusion of privacy – but can also serve a valid and immensely exciting social purpose for development. […]

Beyond the battle of imaginations: Pragmatic and fact-based approach to big data at ITU Telecom World 2014

Much of what is discussed as “big data” does not include the poor, because smartphone penetration is still low, social media are not used by all classes and datafied records are rare in developing countries. Therefore, the session focused on research that has been/is being done on pseudonymized mobile network big data in developing countries. […]

Is EU approach to privacy the appropriate one for us?

I resisted the notion that we should start our work on guidelines for”big data” from the settled law of other jurisdictions. I did not do that in 1987 when I did one of the earliest policy studies on ICTs and the law in Sri Lanka, and I was not about to start in 2013. I […]

The 80:20 rule in electronic communication surveillance

Last week, LIRNEasia taught a course on broadband policy and regulation in Sohna. One of the modules was on privacy and surveillance. One of the instructors was Sunil Abraham, acknowledged for his thoughtful and creative approach to sticky ICT policy questions. Drawing a diagram, he pointed out that if surveillance was exclusively focused on the […]

In 90 days, a report on “big data” and privacy from the White House

John Podesta is no stranger to privacy issues. I can remember some interactions with him in the context of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) during the Clinton Presidency. He has now been tasked with producing a big data-privacy report in 90 days. We are undergoing a revolution in the way that information about our […]

Privacy of non-Americans: Is this enough?

President Obama’s first response to the revelations of NSA malfeasance was jarring to many, an unhappiness articulated by Pratap Bhanu Mehta. Now we have Obama’s considered response: Mr. Obama also said he was taking the “unprecedented step” of extending privacy safeguards to non-Americans, including requiring that data collected abroad be deleted after a certain period […]

Placing weight on anonymity versus privacy?

For too long, the field of privacy has been becalmed by religious fealty to a concept propounded by two New England aristocrats who were annoyed by paparazzi taking pictures of a party in a home. The ill-considered explosion set off by the NSA in its zeal to prevent all future acts of terror has opened […]

Predicting political leanings from taste in music

We think about transaction-generated data (TGD) a lot. The essence is that data generated as a by-product of some activity (and which is therefore highly accurate) can tell us more about behavior (even future behavior) than all the questionnaires in the world. Behavior associated with music, closely tied to emotion,seems like an even better candidate […]

Hal Abelson on privacy in the digital realm

Prof Hal Abelson of MIT recently shared his thoughts on privacy in the digital realm, at a online alumni webcast. Amongst the noise that one hears on this topic these days, his thoughtful comments resonated. Partly for sharing and partly for my own memory, I felt it justified a blog post and I capture his […]

Realism in privacy policy: Consent is dead; find another solution

Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and I have been debating privacy since the early 1990s. We both had chapters in Technology and Privacy: The New Landscape, which remains a seminal book on technology and privacy, published in 1997. Just last month, we continued our conversation at IGF in Bali. He was not so forthright in Bali, but now […]

Have people’s relationships with their phones changed qualitatively since 1979?

This was a central claim in the highly significant ruling made by Federal District Court in Washington DC: In a 68-page ruling, Judge Leon said the N.S.A. program that systematically gathers records of Americans’ phone calls was most likely unconstitutional, rejecting the Obama administration’s argument that a 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland, was a controlling […]

Trust as the key ingredient

Even when one disagrees with a speaker, one can learn from the engagement. I enjoyed myself at the talk given by Futurist Gerd Leonhard at ITU Telecom World, partly because I was actively engaging his stream of consciousness by tweeting. One thing I agreed fully with was his emphasis on trust: As the tweet said: […]

The logical end game of data-based control

My work on privacy in the 1990s greatly benefited from my teaching. My classes were like laboratories where we tested out scenarios and concepts. I (and my students) also engaged with science fiction. I still talk about the extraordinarily powerful, low-tech surveillance techniques described by Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale. That was brought to […]

Big data for big boys would be outcome of mechanical extension of inform and consent

I was reminded of that old chestnut about a flagman having to walk in front of early automobiles when I heard some participants talk at the workshop on big data, social good and privacy. Imagine imposing inform and consent rules on transaction-generated data (big data) belonging to large corporate entities such as mobile operators. They […]

How will privacy and security concerns be balanced?

President Obama’s support for surveillance predates his election. I believe that he has assessed the pros and cons of surveillance and concluded that it is necessary. The question then is how it is to be regulated, so that that negative outcomes can be minimized. One possible path is a variation of the FISA oversight solution, […]

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