Sunday, September 23, 2007

What Will Make Privacy Important to Public & Business?


For several years now I've blogged about privacy laws, data mining, data breaches, search privacy, cookies, phishing, spyware, data theft and big brother.

What never fails to amaze me is the fact that few people care about privacy until it touches them personally through identity theft, harmed reputation, excessive spamming, loss of work or public embarrassment.

I've searched for ways to spur public discussion of the need for effective privacy laws and protections. There is the ocassional flare-up in public interest when AOL leaks the private searches of their users to the world. There are dumb moves by our government when they over-reach their authority and exceed reason as when the Department of Justice demanded 30 days of search data from the top tier search engines.

There are silly stumbles of companies when they expose users to spam by including ALL their customer database of emails in stupid slip-ups. There are major cases of careless greed when data mining companies continuously sell consumer data to criminals because they won't bother to check their own customers need for (or even the right to) private financial data. There is the proposal by the Bush Administration that we have a (poorly designed) defacto National ID required of us to travel anywhere, which becomes an even greater risk to security and privacy.

I could go on for days with this. But to get to the point of this post, I've searched for ways to engage the public in discussion of important privacy issues of the day, so far without effect.

So when I see ways that may help expose the privacy issues discussion to more people, I leap on it with gusto in the hopes that it will bring more attention to privacy laws and protections. I've discovered a tool that may help bring privacy to more bloggers and those involved in building the technologies of the web.

It's called BlogRush and works on the principle of the old banner exchange model - but this one operates with an embeddable widget. The more times you display the widget, the more "credits" you get for your posts being displayed within the widgets of other members of the BlogRush Network. The concept is extended beyond simple one-to-one numbers as those who get their widgets from you, then expose your widget to their own audience and you gain more credits for display of your post headlines across the network on all bloggers using the widget. It seems like the model will overextend itself at some point unless growth is phenomenal and sustained over time.

Nevertheless, I'm happy to try it out and see if the model works for exposing privacy concerns to the world of influential bloggers. Take the BlogRush widget you see to the right on this blog and see how it works for you to increase the visibility of your most important topic. If your topic involves the need to research privacy at all - try out our Privacy Search Engine which draws ONLY from authoritative privacy sources via the Google Custom Search Engine.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Google on International Internet Privacy Standards


Google Calls for International Standards on Internet Privacy and has taken some lumps from privacy advocates which may not be justifiable - YET. The linked Washington post article above quotes comments from Google's global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer where he makes a case for a standards body to set and enforce privacy rules internationally.

Not a bad idea, especially if European standards are incorporated into that mix. But the fact is that Google is very likely to be making this call for international privacy standards simply to deflect concerns about their DoubleClick acquisition when a decision is made by the FTC.

I recently ran across the video below at the VortexDNA Blog. It is a whiteboard discussion of Google Privacy Policy by senior search engineer Maile Ohye - which makes no direct mention of major public concerns - but somehow manages to calm fears - even if you are a bit sceptical of the safety or your private information under current Google privacy practices.

All I can say to this issue is that Google has proven themselves trustworthy so far and has suffered no major data losses or privacy gaffes. This call for international privacy standards from Google appears at a time when they are under scrutiny for the DoubleClick acquisition and after Ask announced the "Ask Eraser" product which will allow any user to completely wipe out their search history and delete all information already gathered and opt out of future data gathering by Ask. Google and all other search engines should consider adopting the Ask Eraser model. Although right now it is all talk and little action by Ask as it is simply a promised product and not a reality.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Privacy Conference, Ottawa, Canada September 25-28, 2007


OTTAWA, Sept. 6 PRNewswire - The who's who of the privacy world will meet in Montreal this month to explore ways to better protect privacy in the face of rapidly changing technologies and heightened national security concerns.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is hosting the 29th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Montreal from September 25 to 28th. Among the topics to be explored are: public safety, globalization, Radio Frequency Identification, nanotechnology, children and privacy, location-based tracking, data mining and Internet crime.

Speakers include:

  • Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, who will give a keynote address on privacy and public security.
  • Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel.
  • Bruce Schneier, internationally renowned privacy and security guru and best-selling author of books such as Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World and Secrets and Lies.
  • Katherine Albrecht, widely recognized as one of the world's leading experts on consumer privacy for her work as director of CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering), an organization she founded to address retail privacy invasion.
  • Simon Davies, a pioneer of the international privacy arena and the founder and director of the watchdog group Privacy International.
The complete program and speakers list are available at: http://www.privacyconference2007.gc.ca. Media are encouraged to complete and submit an accreditation form, also available online, before the conference.

Out-of-town journalists are encouraged to reserve hotel rooms as soon as possible.

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Search Privacy: You Are What You Search For - Er What You Eat


The following comes from AltSearchEngines and was used by permission

Search Engines & The Illusion of Privacy


For those who don’t recognize this image, this is the ubiquitous “Cone of Silence” from the TV series “Get Smart.” Whatever was said in the Cone stayed in the Cone! The privacy of your conversation was absolutely guaranteed.

Let’s see, I’ll be 60 years old…

The story from the Associated Press (AP) that greeted me this morning looked like it was just an update on one of the Homeland Security Department’s policies. It said, in part, that instead of keeping risk assessments on you and me for 40 years, they will only keep them for 15 years. What a break! Oh, and by-the-by, you’re not allowed to see your risk assessment, or even why they have one on you.

You are what you eat!

But what really got my attention was that they will try to deduce whether or not we are terrorists by the names of our traveling companions, the number of hotel beds requested, and -wait for it- airline meal choices! That made me wonder, does Homeland Security know what groceries I buy (with my credit card, to make it a little easier for them)? Do they know what cereal I had for breakfast? What do terrorists eat when they travel? I sure don’t want to order that…

Alternative Search Engines

What does any of this have to do with the alternative search engines? That’s what I was wondering. On Mondays at AltSearchEngines we usually feature a different Vertical search category. But after reading this news, search engines that I once thought of as helpful and innocuous, now seemed to be under a black cloud of suspicion.

People Search

Of course People search is often singled out as the bad guy. What do they know about me? Why is Facebook releasing my profile? If I misspell “kiddie horns” when I search for my nephew’s birthday party favors, am I going to be tagged as a pervert? Personal data and issues of privacy will always be at the top of everyone’s concern. The alternative People search engines and the social networking sites will always have that special burden of reassuring their users that it’s safe to use their site. (Or at the very least that the benefits outweigh the risks.)

Likewise the Job search engines. Before today I would have only wondered which one is most likely to find a good position. But in a parallel paranoid universe, what if “something” happened and my boss found that I have been searching for a new job while I was on the clock! After all, didn’t Monster.com have a theft of confidential information?

Health Search? Could a prospective employer surreptitiously buy a list that revealed that I have a preexisting condition and then find another reason not to hire me?

Travel search? Yep, he’s a terrorist. Probably off to training camp.

Search engines that track blogs, discussions, buzz, and other readily available Internet chatter; if I make a joke about renting out my basement to “that guy on the video,” will they “accidentally” fire bomb my house?

Video search? Buy Season Three of “24″ ? Not any more; no way.

Image search. More bad news. Another article, again, in this morning’s paper, said that if they catch a child pornography suspect with a picture of a child on a red blanket, they perform a search for all photos with red blankets. My beach towel is red! I could be looking at 10-15 years of hard time - and lose my beach towel.

Conclusion

We live in a world where every email, every outdoor camera, every Internet search on every search engine, every hotel we book or meal that we order might be captured by someone and used against us. The “Age of Innocence” has run head-on into the “Illusion of Privacy,” and the result is the “Plague of Paranoia” that is sweeping our world like an electronic epidemic.

Now, what would a terrorist order for lunch?

Here’s a bonus, check out this really creative UI for a local restaurant search!

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