| Thursday July 24th 2014

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Questions to Consider in the Coming Privacy Wars


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It seems obvious that privacy is going to be a major point of contention in the near-term future. It’s only going to get hotter as major online services compile huge amounts of data about us, as Open Data advocates push for that data to be freed up for reuse and as more cluster[fudge] incidents like the Facebook Beacon and the AOL search data release hit the public consciousness.

The story in the news this week is about Sears getting caught installing ComScore tracking spyware surreptitiously on customer’s computers. Who knows what it will be next week? Who knows what lurks in the shadows, set to make the news in the coming year or not at all?

I want it all, personally – I want my data to be free, I want to be in control of it and I want to have control over my privacy as well. Is that too much to ask? The watchdog group Privacy International released their annual report today about privacy around the world and put the US in the lowest category – “endemic surveillance societies.” Can we figure out how we can minimize surveillance while balancing privacy and the incredible opportunities that come from making at least some of our data open?

Beyond that big question, there are a lot of “little questions” that we need to engage with as soon as possible so that we don’t lose out on privacy or Open Data, one at the expense of the other.

1. What of contemporary privacy standards should be carried through into an era of data and what ought not?
2. How do we balance the benefits of data openness with the need for privacy?
3. Are users savvy or motivated enough to control our own data?
4. Is the desire for privacy a conservative force that will hamper innovation based on openness?
5. Will a lower threshold of privacy than is good for us become a competitive necessity?
6. Is data centralization in the hands of a single vendor an inherent threat to privacy?
7. What is the balance between digital privacy and national or international security?

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