Category Archives: Privacy

iPolice

By now you probably know the sordid case of the lost iPhone and the ongoing Apple-Gizmodo spat that culminated in the recent police raid on a Gizmodo editor’s home. The raid raises two very interesting and troubling issues. The first concerns state and federal journalist shield laws and how they apply to online journalists like Jason Chen. That deserves a separate treatment that I will defer to a later post.

The second issue is why the police descended on a home in mass to break down the door and cart away six computers in what is essentially an intellectual property dispute between two corporations. The reason, it turns out, for this strange action on the part of the high-tech crime task force is that Apple sits on their steering committee.

Meet the iPolice, Apple’s very own IP enforcement squad with handy police state powers.

When you make a call and have the police break into a citizens home and confiscate his possessions, doesn’t that qualify you as an evil corporate behemoth?

Full disclosure: I don’t own any Apple products. At this rate it not looking like I ever will.

I thought xauth was a Unix command…

Axel Nennker is calling out Google and Meebo for the privacy aspects of the new XAuth spec.

Peter Yarid has some thoughts here, but criticizes it more from a business than privacy standpoint.

Techie-buzz has this candidate for the understatement award:

There are of course privacy implications because not every user would want every website in the world to know what social networks it uses.

Gee, you think?

You have already agreed to be monitored

Steve Chapman poses the question, “would you volunteer to carry a device that lets the police monitor your location 24×7, every day?” He then lets you in on a secret, you already have. In fact chances are you have the locator on your person at this very moment.

It’s called a cell phone.

Just think of the privacy implications here. The government can tell if you spend the night at someone elses house, visit a red light district, attend a political rally, drive too fast, or get a medical procedure. They can know where you are at all times, both when you are out in public or when you are in a private residence.

Oh, and the current administration (like the last one) doesn’t think a warrant should be required for any of this.

Pre-crime and punishment

Reason has this disturbing story about an Oregon man who was taken into custody, had his house searched (without a warrant), had his property taken, and was forced to undergo a mental examination all because there was a suspicion that he might commit a violent crime in the future. He is not suspected of actually committing a crime or of actually threatening anyone, but he was a gun collector who had been place on administrative leave from his job.

Defenders of this policy will likely point out that he was released and his property was returned, so the action is warranted to make sure that he wasn’t a threat to his community. I would note that such defenders are not volunteering to have the SWAT team come to their home, search their house, and haul them to a mental facility in handcuffs.

Living and dying in reputation time

Microsoft has done an interesting study that finds %70 of hr professionals surveyed had rejected applicants due to online reputation. Clearly people need to be more careful about not putting things out there that will hurt their reputation.

But why stop with just hiding the bad? How about accentuating the good? How about inventing the good?

Perhaps there is a great opportunity for a start up that would “puff” people’s online reputations for a small fee. If your prospective employer if browsing your Facebook page, wouldn’t it be great if Reverend Smith was thanking you for your great work you did at the homeless shelter last weekend, or kudos from your kids school for getting their library book fair organized? How about posts from one of your friends about how you helped him move into his new house? A reputation buffing service could plant this kind of reputation to really make you look like the kind of person that employers would want on their team.

Or you could go out and actually do those things… nah, that’s just crazy.

Assumed consent

According to this Telegraph article, the UK government is rushing ahead with putting all their citizens NHS records into a massive centralized DB. The rush is apparently intended to beat the next election.

Being the UK it should come as no surprise that they are assuming consent unless told otherwise, and aren’t going out of their way to inform the public that it’s happening and that opting out is even possible.

Beware of greeks bearing gifts

Beware of greeks bearing gifts, or schools issuing laptops. Of course this situation could be addressed by a simple application of electrical tape.

You have to wonder exactly what the school was thinking would happen. How do you not get sued when you do something so monumentally dumb?