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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cory Doctorow and the Privacy Bargain

Cory Doctorow, Science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. Co-editor of weblog Boing Boing (, and contributor to The Guardian, the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and Wired

Internet giants will tell you that they're participating in a "privacy bargain" where consumers trade privacy for services. But it's a funny sort of bargain that involves Internet users giving up everything, with no ability to dicker --- not even the ability to see what they're giving up and to whom. What if we gave Internet users the power to decline an offer? What if we changed the analytics shooting war so that the users were armed, too?

Cory started and discussed the Kim Possible game that Disney put in place in Florida. Kids are given mobile devices and actually inverse the common social media model, by making the humans the sensors, as opposed to the sensed. Private information is put into the hands of the users in this model.

GalaxyZoo & Google Page Rank are examples of crowd-sourcing where humans do what they are good at - making decisions, and computers do what they are good at, counting decisions. We cant rely on computers to make decisions for us as to what we should or shouldn't give away online. They can be tools to facilitate this, but humans need to be empowered to leverage the tools.

Discussed facebook's privacy "policies" and the concept of making terms and agreements confusing and obscure, which at the end should be "we'll give you this service for this information." It's all the mechanics of a rigged Vegas game. It's the same mechanism used to program slot machines for limited payouts to keep people addicted to their use.

It is a deliberate strategy.

How should we price our privacy?
What are the consequences of giving out our privacy?
Related story of person having a child giving child's name and birthdate to a marketing company in return for a basket each year. Child died shortly after, but baskets kept coming each year - what is the personal impact of that divulgence of privacy?

Introduced the concept of having an interest, vs. property rights with respect to information. Discussed Bill C30, SOPA act, and other aspects of privacy and ownership debates over information.

What about pop ups? They were prevalent, until Mozilla blocked them by default. technology was the impetus to kill that invasion of privacy. Cookie managers could be the new version of this concept.
As a case in point of why changes need to be made to make this feasible, try creating new users in browsers, and turning on "ask me every time" for cookie acceptance; you will be overwhelmed in a short amount of time. The impact to your Internet experience will drive you to simply accept them. This can be addressed by browser design by more easily managing cookies; managing cookies would be a key way to give the populace informed consent to the trade of privacy for service.

Users have come to the gunfight with analytics and advertisers with a wooden stick.

A call for people to be realistic about what the cloud can and should do, what information is reasonable to stream? What information is reasonable to have conglomerated into a single physical space that provisions the virtual space? What is the risk of the mash-up of the data?

The public needs bargaining chips in this war on our information. Android has an app/feature that allows you to lie to apps that are asking for your personal information. This mod feeds junk data to privacy sniffing apps, and arms the consumer to fight back against draconian imperialist forces.

Questioned on his stand on jailbreaking. Compared to alchemy, and the risk of having to learn everything over and over. Stated that alchemic operating systems that are illegal to break the "copyright" are equivalent to an engineering firm designing a building and disclosing anything about the design of the building. Case in point was policy of proprietary file format for audio books being enforced, and giving no flexibility, and in fact, removing the copyright of the author de facto. Discussed CarrierIQ being detected first on Android, due to the open aspects of the OS. People were able to learn that our privacy was being violated because the OS allowed inspection and transparency into what was installed and happening on our devices with our information.

Discussed the workflow for managing your personal information on the web. The browser would need to examine the cookies for "questionable" requests, and block them like email clients block images, and allow you to have an insight into what cookies you will trust and or distrust. A blacklist can be created in public crowdsourcing that leverages communal intelligence and experience.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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