Restore the Fourth: Grassroots civil liberties activism is back and better than ever!

Restore the Fourth rally on the Federal Building, NY


It’s the Fourth of July, and we’re fighting for our civil liberties.

me, in 2008, to the Senator Obama – Please, No Telecom Immunity and Get FISA Right mailing list

Five years later, grassroots civil liberties activism on social networks is back and better then ever.  Back in 2008, we were organizing online, trying to stop the disastrous FISA Amendment Act, and Barack Obama had just responded to our open letter.  We lost that battle, but the fight goes on … and today it went to the next level at Restore the Fourth‘s rallies across the country:

New York

How cool is that?

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Road trip! Bringing the #privchat community to Diaspora *

#privchatIt’s hard to believe but #privchat — the Tuesday morning Twitter Privacy Chat — has been going on for almost a year. CDT, Privacy Camp, and EPIC have done a great job moderating, and the attendees are a great cross-section of the privacy and civil liberties community: non-profits, privacy-focused startups, academics, privacy professionals at large companies, and activists (hiiiii!).

So let’s build on that success with a road trip, and bring the same kind of social networky goodness to Diaspora *!

If you’re thinking that you don’t have time for yet another social network, I feel your pain; the plan I’m suggesting only requires an hour of your time. Before we get there, though, I want to talk a bit about why I think it’s worth doing.

Why Diaspora *?

Diaspora* logo variant by GiorgioDiaspora shot to prominence last May, as four NYU undergrads raised money on Kickstarter for a distributed open-source privacy-friendly social network project just as a Facebook privacy storm kicked off. Good timing!

Eighteen months and $200,000 later, Sarah Mei and Yosem Companys have joined the core team, and there are dozens of public installations with tens of thousands of Diasporans. Liz Gannes’ Diaspora Prepares to Launch Open Source network on All Things D and Not vaporware, not a Nigerian prince on the team’s blog give an idea of the current status: an engineering team focused on getting to beta, a growing community, another round of fundraising in progress. Hanging out on Diaspora a lot for the last month, I’ve had interesting discussions with interesting people from across the world.

And one thing everybody that I’ve run into so far has in common:

They care about their privacy.

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Protected: Sneak Preview (DRAFT)

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The top 23 privacy stories of 2010 and 2011

2010/11The Center for Democracy and Technology is running a Twtpoll on the biggest privacy story of 2010. 

Vote early and often!

Then come back and read the rest of this post.

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What can Diaspora learn about security from Microsoft? (REVISED DRAFT)

See the final version here

Thanks to Adam, Jason, and Alem for the initial list; Sarah, tptacek, Locke1689, mahmud, Wayne, PeterH, Steve, and SonyaLynn for comments on the previous draft, and Damon for the wording on #7.

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Is Facebook subject to breach notification laws for revealing phone numbers?

Security warning: If you don’t intend to share your phone number on Facebook, ask a friend to check their Phonebookand see if it’s there.  And it’s a good time to check to your privacy settings — my brother Greg has instructions on The Happy Accident.

Update, October 7: See the Twitter discussion in the first comment.

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31 months later: The Economist’s Debate on Privacy (DRAFT! Feedback welcome!)

DRAFT! Feedback welcome!
Revised version to be posted on Tales from the Net.

Economist Debates: Online Privacy.A debate between Marc Rotenberg of EPIC and Jim Harper of Cato, moderated by Martin Giles.  Because, y'know, who cares what women think?

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Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2010: why should people care?

CFP logoOne of our goals for the 2010 Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference is to reach out to a broader and more diverse community.  Our upcoming “save the date” announcement is the first good opportunity for this.  Getting some attention on Twitter, blogs, and email lists can help raise awareness of “the best computer conference you’ve never heard of”, as Elizabeth Weise so memorably described it a decade ago.   But why should people care?

The intro from the 2006 conference says it well:

Now, more than ever, the lines of technology, freedom, and privacy are colliding.  Governments continue their surveillance of citizens in the name of security, huge databases of information on every aspect of individuals’ lives are created, and debates are underway about controlling content.  Yet, while technology is at the epicenter of these profound developments, technology also has the potential to advance the civil society…. CFP will explore issues that impact us all, wherever we are, around the world.

Indeed.  And for the last two decades, the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference has been at the heart of this discussion, with a mix of technologists, lawyers, policy experts, academics, corporate executives, politicians, and activists.  This year, we’ll be having it in Silicon Valley for the first time ever (yes, really!), and so it’s a unique chance to engage deeply and reframe the discussions that too often treat privacy and online rights as an afterthought.

Or so it seems to me.  Then again, I’m a regular at the conference (1, 2), and spend a lot of my time hanging out with privacy and free speech advocates … so perhaps I’m not the best judge of what’s a good hook for everybody else.

So, it’d be great to hear some other perspectives.  Last year’s program gives an idea of the wide range of topics that are covered at a typical CFP, and Lorrie Cranor’s Ten Years of Computers, Freedom and Privacy (from 2000) gives some historical perspective; I’ve included last year’s suggested topics in the first comment.  Given all that …

Why do you care?

How would you convince others who aren’t “the usual suspects” that they should care?

jon

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Creating the future at #cfp09: showtime for privacy and civil liberties activsm!

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“Fight for me!”
— a privacy-loving Facebook friend, wishing me luck at the conference

Here’s our opportunity to realize the promise of the Net that was so present in 1990s when CFP started.
— Deborah Pierce on the CFP blog

The program for this year’s Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference is outstanding even by CFP’s high standards.  The mix of technology, legal, policy, and activism perspectives is particularly strong this year, and with the new administration and Washington DC location there’s significant involvement by government employees for the first time since the 1990s.  As well as CFP regulars like Jennifer Grannick, Jim Harper, Ed Felten, Nicky Ozer, Alessandro Acquisti, Stewart Baker, and Lillie Coney, speakers incude first-timers like Marcy Wheeler, Dori Maynard, Paul Ekman, Shireen Mitchell, Rebecca Mackinnon, Nancy Scola, and Ari Melber.  Don’t take my word for it — check out the program and prepare to be impressed.

Best of all, with streaming video, the #cfp09 Twitter backchannel ,* live-blogging, and a community wiki, the conference will be more accessible onine than every before.    Kudos to Katy Nelson of the ACLU and Robert Guerra of Freedom House for taking the lead with the video streaming, and to all the volunteers of the online visibility team for all the great work on the blog, Twitter, and Facebook.  The online schedule has details, we’ll do our best to keep the web site updated regularly, and the Twitter feed will be best way to keep up what’s going on.

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Once again Open for Questions: the pilot continues

Round two of change.gov’s Open for Questions is up.  Not a lot of details … last time, it was open for about three days, and there were brief answers to the top five questions, and a more detailed post and video on at least one topic (bailout transparency).

Dan McSwain, on the change.gov blog, describes one change:

In this round, you can still view all of the questions that have been submitted—or you can break down the questions by category for easier navigation. For instance, you can read the top-ranking question regarding Energy and the Environment and browse through other questions on the same topic by clicking on that issue.

Also it seems that there’s a subtle difference in how URLs are handled that makes it harder to send out a link to an individual question.  This change cuts down people’s ability to promote their ideas in email and blog posts, which fits in well with Open for Questions’ role of routing around different kinds of “gatekeepers”: making it harder to link to a question cuts down the influence of bloggers and organizations with large email lists.

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Open for Questions at change.gov: What about privacy?

The Obama transition team’s Open for Questions pilot last week went extremely well for a first attempt.  Combined with all the other promising things Micah Sifry discusses in Kudos to the Change.gov New Media Team, it seems to me that the Obama administration is on track for some effective ways of leveraging cognitive diversity and “wisdom of the crowds” effects, cutting past the gatekeepers in the media, and getting Obama direct feedback from Americans.

At least for those Americans who are willing to give away their privacy as the price for interacting with their government.

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Creating the future: Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2009

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From conference co-chairs Cindy Southworth and Jay Stanley’s Call for presentations, tutorials, and workshops:

The 19th annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference is now accepting proposals for panels, workshop sessions, and other events.

CFP is the leading policy conference exploring the impact of the Internet, computers and communications technologies on society. It will be taking place in June 2009, just months into a brand new U.S. administration — an exciting moment in history, as we look into the future and ask, “Where do we go from here?” For more than a decade, CFP has anticipated policy trends and issues and has shaped the public debate on the future of privacy and freedom in an ever more technology-filled world. CFP focuses on topics such as freedom of speech, privacy, intellectual property, cybersecurity, telecommunications, electronic democracy, digital rights and responsibilities, and the future of technologies and their implications.

We are requesting proposals and ideas for panels, plenaries, debates, keynote speakers, and other sessions that will address these and related topics and how we can shape public policy and the public debate on these topics as we create the future.

More information, and a link to the submission form, here.  The submission deadline is December 19 January 23.

CFP has always been a meeting ground for different perspectives: academics, privacy advocates, corporate types, government, activists, and at times hackers and students.  The quality of presentations is high, and there’s a good mix between big names and “not the usual suspects”.   Washington DC, six months into a new administration that’s being described as “the first internet presidency”, with privacy and civil liberties issues on the table … it should be a particularly good year!

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