More on the Privacy-Portability conundrum

(from the cc flickrstream of dalziel 86, thankyou)

My post yesterday on Data Protection Law, Facebook and Scraping garnered more interest than my normal Enterprisey software ramblings. Dennis kindly picked up on my post twice, and I  experienced a considerable spike in traffic and commentary courtesy of  Robert. 

I’d not paid much attention the announcement, so after reading about it over at Dennis’s and Mike’s  and at techcrunch HQ I had a little browse through the website and Ben’s blog

I’m pleased to see the social networking companies getting together and discussing inter-operability issues.  These issues are important, users of these services are right to be concerned about lock in, and the inconvenience of moving from one platform to another.

Sharing is only one side of the equation though, and I would prefer the companies concerned to look at a broader collaboration. They really need to be examining the broader topics  of identity, trust and context.  I hope that they are.

I’d urge the folks involved in this effort to get in touch with the Prime Project and other research projects in this space.  Talk to these folks, for instance. Researchers have been grappling with the challenges of technology, privacy, identity, data reuse for decades. There is a tremendous amount of prior art that should and must be leveraged. This isn’t just a European thing either.  Perhaps check out  Lessig, Rotenberg, Swires,  Litan, Hahn, Cate, Shostack, Westin, Cohen, Burk, Lemley, Acquisiti, Kesan, Froomkin,Samuelson, Solove….and more.

I was a tad harsh yesterday about Alec Sander’s manifesto post, as I later found out it has the backing of one of Canada’s (if not the world’s)  leading Privacy experts, Michael Geist. Thanks and apologies Alec. Oh, and Mike at Techcrunch UK,  I got the joke, eventually. Don’t give up your day job though.

My post yesterday merely glossed over some of the issues with scraping and Facebook, but I’m glad it helped get people talking.  The issue at stake though has little to do with sharing business cards.  It goes a whole lot deeper. If you have a moment, head over and read what JP had to say. a couple of weeks ago.

I am responsible for the contact information I hold. I am accountable for that information. Accountable to friends who have trusted me with that information. And if I pass that information on without their implicit or, in some cases, explicit, permission, I am breaking their trust in me.

This, to me, is issue number one to do with any debate on information “ownership”.


And it’s a biggie.

Then via JP I came across this blog – Freedom to Tinker. Goodness. Subscribed.

Where did we get this idea that facts about the world must be owned by somebody? Stop and consider that question for a minute, and you’ll see that ownership is a lousy way to think about this issue

( Btw also You may find Bill Zeller’s comment illuminating.)

There is significant debate in legal circles about the pros and cons of privacy as a right or/and  as property. Schwarz’s paper here is well worth a read.  As Schwarz notes,

At its core, information privacy has both an individual and a
social value. Hence, I end on a note of caution: ongoing scrutiny of
regulation of personal data is needed because failure in the privacy
market can harm both individual self-determination and democratic

I do think the concept of privacy as property is a good one, especially in places where defining it as a fundamental right is nigh on impossible. There is also some good stuff over on at the Burton Group blog

I’ve suggested before that folks, especially in the US, should read Solove’s latest book. You can download the first chapter here.  I’ll also be getting this for bedside reading.

The more people start thinking about the implications of what they share, the better. Many of the US commentators on the blog felt that EU privacy law was dumb, or worse. It does have its problems, but before you consign it to the bin, check out a bit of privacy law history.  The UK information Commissioner’s website has come on leaps and bounds too. The US site EPIC, is an excellent read.

I’ll leave you with a fabulous quote, from Michelle Dennedy, Sun’s Chief Privacy Officer,  courtesy of one of the  mighty governor‘s excellent posts.

Her own little girl came up with a brilliant take on privacy and what it is:

Privacy is like grass, she told her mom. Why asked Michelle? Because it keeps the dirt from being naked… 

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