Blog Archives

Obama and privacy: some early disquieting signs

Sarah Lai Stirland discusses Barack Obama’s Privacy Challenge on Wired’s Threat Level, focusing on the question of what’s going to happen to the huge amount of information that Obama, the Democrats, and firms like Catalist collected from during the campaign from all kinds of sources — voter files, commercial databases, phone and canvassing information, etc.

What will the Obama campaign do with all this data? It’s not saying. A query to the Obama press office last week went unanswered. Catalist, the Democratic data firm profiled earlier this year in Wired magazine, declined to answer any questions. A spokeswoman referred all queries to the Obama campaign…..

The Obama campaign’s privacy policy states that it generally doesn’t make your personal information available to anyone other than its campaign staff and “agents,” but that it might share it with organizations that have similar political goals. That’s a pretty big loophole.

Ironically, the Obama campaign’s own technology policy platform (pdf) promises the electorate that an Obama administration will “safeguard our right to privacy.”

Ironic indeed, given the Obama transition teams’s highly-invasive vetting process for job applications … more on that below.

The article also includes suggestions from privacy advocates — like my co-author on Tales from the Net:

Deborah Pierce, founder of the non-profit group Privacy Activism, suggests that the Obama campaign adopt the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s fair information principles.*

Continue Reading »

political
privacy

Comments (3)

Permalink

A proposal for Obama’s new CTO: Require independent review by technical experts

Yesterday my former Microsoft colleague Matt Lerner, now at FrontSeat (“software for civic life”) sent out mail about the new ObamaCTO.org site, a user-powered forum for gathering and prioritizing ideas for Obama’s new CTO.  Anybody can register, vote on ideas, or submit your own; in a twist from digg-style rating, each person is limited to ten votes, and you can apply up to three on any given topic.  Unsurprisingly, I immediately voted for Ensure reliable & trustworthy election technologies.🙂

The site’s very well done, powered by UserVoice, with a straighforward interface.  Micah Sifry’s Never Mind Who; What Should S/he Do? on techPresident has more details on this site (as well as a new report on the role of the CTO from the 21st Century Right to Know Project).

And far be it from me to pass an opportunity for grassroots activism by.  Here’s my submission:

Require independent review of projects by technical experts

Over the last 8 years, many governmental projects have failed to take into account basic principles of systems and software engineering, design, computer security, and privacy.  The REAL ID proposal, for example, stored personal data in unencrypted form, relied on databases which didn’t yet exist, and ignored the questions of false positives due to inaccurate data.  Independent review by experts can detect these issues early in the process, which either gives time for them to be addressed or allows the project to be rethought far more cheaply.

If you think it’s reasonable, please vote it up!

jon

political
Professional
Uncategorized

Comments (0)

Permalink

Berkman Center researcher publishes 1700 students’ Facebook data: “We did not consult w/ privacy experts on how to do this, but we did think long and hard ….”

facebook logoI think I’ll let others tell the story for me …

September 25:

In collaboration with Harvard sociology graduate students Kevin Lewis and Marco Gonzalez, and with UCLA professor Andreas Wimmer and Harvard professor Nicholas Christakis, Berkman Fellow Jason Kaufman has made available a first wave of Facebook.com data through the Dataverse Network Project.

The dataset comprises machine-readable files of virtually all the information posted on approximately 1,700 FB profiles by an entire cohort of students at an anonymous, northeastern American university.

Tastes, Ties, and Time: Facebook data release, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University

September 29:

The “non-identifiability” of such a dataset is up for debate….  According to the authors, the collection of the dataset was approved by the IRB, Facebook and the individual college.  The dissemination of the dataset appears to be approved by the IRB.

Facebook Datasets and Private Chrome, Fred Stutzman, Unit Structures

Continue Reading »

privacy
social computing

Comments (5)

Permalink

Ask Facebook to de-friend Ted Ullyot!

cross-posted at the Oxdown Gazette

Logo for anti-Ullyot Facebook groupThe L.A. Times’ Tech blog* is reporting that Ted Ullyot — a former chief of staff to former AG Alberto Gonzales, a former AOL in-house lawyer and a former Kirkland & Ellis partner — is moving to San Fran to take the top legal job at Facebook.

Facebook Sends Ted Ullyot a Friend Request, Dan Slater, Wall Street Journal Law Blog.

And just in case you were wondering:

As for his stint in the Bush administration, that was something he had long sought and something for which he remains grateful, Ullyot said. Despite the politically charged high drama, he said: “I have nothing but good to say about it.”

Facebook hires general counsel as it continues to grow, Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times Technology blog

Unsurprisingly, there’s a protest group: We demand that facebook fire Alberto Gonzales’ right-hand man, Ted Ullyot.  283 members and counting.

Continue Reading »

political
privacy
social computing
Tales from the Net

Comments (1)

Permalink

Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2008: showtime!

cfp logoCFP2008 traditionally starts off with a day of tutorials.

I was on a panel organized by Lillie Coney of EPIC on E-Deceptive Campaign Practices: “Elections 2.0″, which was extremely interesting; I discussed examples of, and responses to, e-deception based on my activism experiences this election season, much of which I’ve blogged about here already.

Tova Wang of Common Cause moderated, and the other panelists included John Phillips of Aristotle, Jenigh J. Garrett of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Ruchi Bhorwmik of Senator Barack Obama’s office, talking about the legislation he’s introduced banning certain deceptive campaign practices relating to knowingly and intentionally spreading false information about voting times and locations. The audience was extremely involved — and knowledgable — and the conversations during the breaks were great as well. Aldon Hynes already has an interesting followup post in Project VoteProtector on his blog Orient House.

Continue Reading »

political
privacy
Professional
social computing
Tales from the Net

Comments (0)

Permalink

“9.5 Theses for Technology Policy in the Next Administration”

On the CFP08 blog, Laura DeNardis of the Yale Internet and Society Project writes:

To help shape public debate in this election year, the Information Society Project at Yale Law School recommends the following policy principles – The 9.5 Theses for Technology Policy in the Next Administration

The principles include Privacy, Access, Network Neutrality, Transparency, Culture, Diversity, and Openness.  The intent here is that these are starting points for a discussion; threads between now and CFP will delve into the individual principles, and I’ve already put them up on the wiki to allow for revision.

There’s certainly a lot of good stuff here.  Since at this stage we’re trying to get the conversation started, I’ve instead been focusing on some areas I thought had room for improvement, for example asking in a comment*

why does diversity mention only media concentration, and ignore the general dynamic in which marginalized groups (women, persons of color, those on the wrong side of the digital divide … the list goes on) have been excluded from discussions like these?

It’s an interesting discussion so far; please check it out and join in!

jon

* the actual comment I left there had a few typos as well; I fixed them here.

Professional

Comments (0)

Permalink

Asbestos underwear, fair information principles, and security

Tales from the Net co-author Deborah Pierce’s Into the Lion’s Den — a privacy advocate’s work is never done (on her tribe.net blog) talks about a panel she was just on at ere expo, “the nation’s leading recruiting conference.” She was there for a debate with the CEO of a company whose mission is “to map every business organization on the planet, contact by contact”:

The CEO started by asking how many in the audience had heard of Jigsaw or had used Jigsaw. About half of the people raised their hands. When my turn came, I asked how many people had heard of Fair Information Principles*. There were about a hundred people in the room and about three people raised their hands. With this crowd I wasn’t surprised.

Continue Reading »

privacy
Professional
Tales from the Net

Comments (3)

Permalink

Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2008: call for proposals is up!

CFP banner

From the CFP2008 web page:

This election year will be the first to address US technology policy in the information age as part of our national debate. Candidates have put forth positions about technology policy and have recognized that it has its own set of economic, political, and social concerns. In the areas of privacy, intellectual property, cybersecurity, telecommunications, and freedom of speech, an increasing number of issues once confined to experts now penetrate public conversation. Our decisions about technology policy are being made at a time when the architectures of our information and communication technologies are still being built. Debate about these issues needs to be better-informed in order for us to make policy choices in the public interest.

This year, the 18th annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference will focus on what constitutes technology policy. CFP: Technology Policy ’08 is an opportunity to help shape public debate on those issues being made into laws and regulations and those technological infrastructures being developed. The direction of our technology policy impacts the choices we make about our national defense, our civil liberties during wartime, the future of American education, our national healthcare systems, and many other realms of policy discussed more prominently on the election trail. Policies ranging from data mining and wiretapping, to file-sharing and open access, and e-voting to electronic medical records will be addressed by expert panels of technologists, policymakers, business leaders, and advocates.

Updates:

CFP2008 is being held in New Haven, Connecticut, on May 20-23. Back in 2000 Elizabeth Weise called it “the most important computer conference you’ve never heard of”; I think of CFP as the most important conference — and network of people and organizations — focused on civil rights (and increasingly, human rights in general) in an electronic society. Lorrie Faith Cranor’s Ten Years of Computers, Freedom and Privacy gives the early history, where hackers, lawyers, law enforcement, and goverment representatives fought out “crypto wars” and internet censorship battles (ending with a defiant “we’ll be back” from the Clinton adminstration as the Clipper Chip went to its well-deserved fate).

The technology policy focus is extremely timely. The upcoming election will feature significant differences between the parties and candidates on issues like net neutrality, warrantless surveillance, immunity for corporations who may have collaborated with illegal government wiretapping programs, Real ID, the McCain bill to censor social networks, and privacy — now on the national agenda thanks to MoveOn’s stance against Facebook’s Beacon.

Over the last several years, CFP has steadily broadened its horizons to take a more global view and pay increasing attention to perspectives that are getting overlooked: digital divide issues, normalization of surveillance and censorship by governments and corporations, hactivism, the special challenges of communities like the Mohawk Nation (spread over multiple jurisdictions), high school students in a panel organized by danah boyd in Seattle in 2005. After a few (in my humble opinion) rather bland and corporate years, things have taken a more activist turn: a 2003 New York walking tour by the Surveillance Camera Players, a 2005 demo by the ACLU that led to the US State Department changing policy on encryption and passports (props to State Department official Frank Moss for being there and taking the message back), Patrick Ball accepting his EFF Pioneer Award by satellite from Sri Lanka, where he was working with the truth and reconciliation commission. Last year in Quebec, during the height of Stop Real ID Now! grassroots activist campaign, a half-dozen coalition members ranging from libertarians to labor activists were there (as well as some people from DHS and elsewhere who strongly disagreed with us but were still willing to have very honest discussions), and Bruce Schneier’s keynote on the Psychology of Security for people on both sides of the debate.

The call for presentations, tutorials, and workshops asks for proposals on panels, tutorials, speaker suggestions, and birds of a feather sessions through the CFP: Technology Policy ’08 submission page. The deadline for panels tutorials, and speakers is March 17, 2008, and the birds-of-a-feather deadline is April 21.The list of suggested topics is really broad (I’ll include it in a comment) and so as always there are likely to be a lot more high-quality submissions than can easily fit; the program committee often merges and suggests changes to sessions to help squeeze more in. The submission process can seem a bit intimidating (this is an ACM conference and so it has some academic overtones) but the guidelines are helpful and have links to some examples.

So if there’s a topic you’d like to see covered, one or more speakers you think would be good, a presentation you’d like to give, a panel you’d like to organize, or a tutorial you’d like to attend (or provide), please think about submitting it. If you’re not sure whether it makes sense, feel free to give it a trial run in a comment here or just send me some mail.

If it seems like CFP means a lot to me, it does: I’ve been going there for over 10 years; my SO Deborah Pierce has been going even longer and chaired it in 2005. I’ve volunteered, asked questions, been on a panel, run a couple of BoFs, and taken photos of Deborah during the various sessions she’s appeared in or moderated, and this year I’m excited to be on the Program Committee. There are lots of friends and long-term acquaintances we only get to see in person at CFP — and every year we met a lot of new people. This year, with the two of us working together on Tales from the Net, and Computers, Freedom and Privacy 2008’s ambitious goal of “shaping public debate” on technology policy in an election year, I’m particularly looking forward to it!

jon

political
privacy
Professional
social computing
social sciences

Comments (8)

Permalink

Coverage for ‘How to respond when Facebook censors your political speech’

censored, from .mws flickr photostream, used under a creative commons licenseThe two-part series I posted on Tales from the Net and Wired’s How-to Wiki is starting to get some coverage.

Shai Sachs has an excellent piece on MyDD:

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about Facebook “censorship” of free speech. The Blackadder One case I wrote about a couple weeks ago was just an early warning sign of more trouble to come. Recently Jon Pincus has been posting a series of diaries at Tales from the Net and Liminal States about his encounter with problems very similar to those Derek Blackadder ran into when he tried to organize workers on Facebook. Pincus’s posts include a very good trail of documentation of the problems he’s encountering, which make this series one of the more interesting resources on Facebook censorship I’ve seen.

Continue Reading »

political
Professional
social computing
social sciences
Tales from the Net

Comments (2)

Permalink

How’d it get through QA — and why didn’t they fix it?

Over on Tales from the Net, I’ve been discussing Kevin Poulsen’s articles about a MySpace security bug that allowed access to photos in profiles that had been marked as “private”. It had been well known for months, but MySpace didn’t fix it until the day after Kevin’s first article. In the interim, somebody wrote an automated script to download photos, and released 500,000 of them on the BitTorrent p2p network.

Since it’s social network-related, I posted about over there, but it’s on topic here as well, so I figured I’d mention it …

Professional
social sciences

Comments (0)

Permalink

Privacy and civil liberties: showdown time on the “Protect” America Act

Update on February 12: Final votes were today. Barack Obama voted against telecom immunity — as did Harry Reid and 29 other Democrats. John McCain along with every single Republican Senator, Joe Lieberman, and 19 Democrats voted for. More here.

Update on Super Tuesday: Ari Melber’s Nation article gives the current snapshot; read the thread for more.

Russ Feingold’s video on YouTube sums it up perfectly:

Continue Reading »

political
Professional
social sciences

Comments (14)

Permalink

Happy birthday, EFF!

EFF’s 17th birthday party is tonight at 111 Minna in San Francisco.  Cleverly timed to coincide with Macworld, it features Adrian and the Mysterious D of Bootie fame, and is sponsored by Louis Rosetto’s (of Wired) new chocolate company TCHO.  And they’ll be beta-testing TCHO’s new dark chocolates!

[Hmm … DJs, mashups, chocolate.  What does this remind you of?]

A great cause, great DJs, in a great party space.  What’s not to like?

Happy birthday, EFF!

political
Professional

Comments (0)

Permalink