privacy Archives — Page 4 of 4


I’ve been thinking about big data and privacy these days. I used to think about this subject a lot in the early 1990s. Back then I did not have a lot of company. But now, there is plenty. But as I read what is being written, I worry.
GPS tracking devices are appearing all over the place. This NYT article gives a very positive spin to the tagging of wild animals and to the making of the data widely available, seeing it as a way of building public support for conservation. Some scientists are beginning to provide the public with direct access to tracking data. For instance, the leaders of the Tagging of Pacific Predators project, a 10-year tracking study of 23 different marine species, created a Web site broadcasting the movements of their subjects in real time (or close to it). While the project lasted, anyone with an Internet connection could follow the wanderings of Monty, the mako shark, Genevieve, the leatherback turtle, or Jon Sealwart and Stelephant Colbert, both northern elephant seals.
I have always considered Disney to be operating at the cutting edge of service delivery and crowd management. According to the NYT, it appears that they are planning to transform both using location-sensitive technologies and big data. The ambitious plan moves Disney deeper into the hotly debated terrain of personal data collection. Like most major companies, Disney wants to have as much information about its customers’ preferences as it can get, so it can appeal to them more efficiently. The company already collects data to use in future sales campaigns, but parts of MyMagic+ will allow Disney for the first time to track guest behavior in minute detail.

Concerns about energy-use data

Posted on October 18, 2012  /  0 Comments

In 1992, I wrote parts of a report for the National Regulatory Research Institute in the US on privacy and competitive implications for transaction-generated information (a term that has been eclipsed by the less informative “big data” in recent times). We covered all utilities, including electricity. Burns,Robert; Samarajiva, Rohan & Mukherjee, Roopali (1992) Customer information: Privacy and competitive implications, NRRI 92-11 . Columbus OH: National Regulatory Research Institute. Now, 20 years later, the issue is hot, the subject of a BBC story: The EDPS report voices concern over the “potential intrusiveness” of smart meters, which it says can track what members of a household do in the privacy of their homes.
Behavioral economics has brought to the fore the power of the default. As big data makes it easier to understand people’s actual behaviors and guide their choices, the power of the default is beginning to be fought over. Interestingly, it’s Microsoft versus the rest. Next came an incensed open letter from the board of the Association of National Advertisers to Steve Ballmer, the C.E.

Big business of big data

Posted on June 17, 2012  /  0 Comments

Acxiom does a lot more than just analyze streams of transaction-generated information (our definition of big data). But TGI is an important element of what does into Acxiom’s machines. Few consumers have ever heard of Acxiom. But analysts say it has amassed the world’s largest commercial database on consumers — and that it wants to know much, much more. Its servers process more than 50 trillion data “transactions” a year.
We’ve been thinking about the potential of big data (large, continuing streams of computer-readable data) for development applications. There is nothing about development in the marketing campaign below, but can any zealous privacy advocate identify a problem with it? A mobile campaign by Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide, which is based in Chicago, places the ads for the thermometer within popular apps like Pandora that collect basic details about users, including their sex and whether they are parents, and can pinpoint specific demographics to receive ads. But not all mothers will see the ad on their smartphones. Rather, the ads will be sent only to devices that, according to Google, are in regions experiencing a high incidence of flu.
It’s not only in developing countries that getting organizations and people to change behaviors to accommodate e gov and e commerce is a problem. Consumers who still pay bills via snail mail. Hospitals leery of making treatment records available online to their patients. Some state motor vehicle registries that require car owners to appear in person — or to mail back license plates — in order to transfer vehicle ownership. But the White House is out to fight cyberphobia with an initiative intended to bolster confidence in e-commerce.

How much should the state know about us?

Posted on September 11, 2011  /  0 Comments

The political thriller The Ghost Writer hinged on the memory chip of a GPS device in a borrowed car. The whole panoply of issues around information generated by US citizens as they go about our daily business (and access to that information by the state) is to be decided by the US Supreme Court. It’ll take a while for the rights of those in other jurisdictions to be defined. The Jones case will address not only whether the placement of a space-age tracking device on the outside of a vehicle without a warrant qualifies as a search, but also whether the intensive monitoring it allows is different in kind from conventional surveillance by police officers who stake out suspects and tail their cars. “The Jones case requires the Supreme Court to decide whether modern technology has turned law enforcement into Big Brother, able to monitor and record every move we make outside our homes,” said Susan Freiwald, a law professor at the University of San Francisco.

Asia Internet Coalition gets going

Posted on June 10, 2011  /  0 Comments

I recently learned that a colleague, John Ure, who has been active in telecom reforms efforts in Hong Kong for many years, has been appointed to head the Asian Internet Coalition. Appears they have been quite active in East and South East Asia, with emphasis on privacy and intellectual property issues. I hope they will link up with our friends at the Center for Internet and Society in Bangalore and become active in South Asia as well.
Tp provide location-based services, companies will need maps that will describe relations between shops, people and places. Both Google and Apple are collecting this information, using software embedded in the handsets. Google and Apple use this data to improve the accuracy of everything on the phone that uses location. That includes maps and navigation services, but also advertising aimed at people in a particular spot — a potentially huge business that is just getting off the ground. In fact, the information has become so valuable that the companies have been willing to push the envelope on privacy to collect it.
Phones allow coordination and convenience. But as politicians in many countries learned several years ago, they allow surveillance. Security isn’t just a concern in Middle East autocracies, or for would-be revolutionaries. Mobile phone surveillance, for example, is tough to escape for cellphone users anywhere, said Ethan Zuckerman, senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, and a founder of Global Voices, a worldwide group of bloggers and interpreters that has produced similarly themed guides. Mr.
This should be of relevance to the ongoing debate on the net benefits of mobile networks for liberty. But as a German Green party politician, Malte Spitz, recently learned, we are already continually being tracked whether we volunteer to be or not. Cellphone companies do not typically divulge how much information they collect, so Mr. Spitz went to court to find out exactly what his cellphone company, Deutsche Telekom, knew about his whereabouts. The results were astounding.
Since Harvard Forum II, we have been engaged in a low-key conversation about the liberating potential for ICTs, especially networks. For understandable reasons, the pace has picked up in recent times, especially in relation to the use of the kill switch by cornered tyrants. Now here’s a piece that is relevant to the discussion about the companies responsible for the networks we debate on and debate about: But three years later, the effort known as the Global Network Initiative has failed to attract any corporate members beyond the original three, limiting its impact and raising questions about its potential as a viable force for change. At the same time, the recent Middle East uprisings have highlighted the crucial role technology can play in the world’s most closed societies, which leaders of the initiative say makes their efforts even more important. “Recent events really show that the issues of freedom of expression and privacy are relevant to companies across the board in the technology sector,” said Susan Morgan, executive director of the initiative.
There was a time when I worked a lot on privacy, especially privacy issues surrounding transaction-based information (TGI). The last piece of that line of research received good reviews , the quote below being an example. The next step should have been a book; I chose to come to Sri Lanka to set up the Telecom Regulatory Commission instead. Privacy was a fast moving field at that time. I knew it would be too late to get into it, after the diversion in Sri Lanka.