"privacy" entries

Pursuing adoption of free and open source software in governments

LibrePlanet explores hopes and hurdles.

Free and open source software creates a natural — and even necessary — fit with government. I joined a panel this past weekend at the Free Software Foundation conference LibrePlanet on this topic and have covered it previously in a journal article and talk. Our panel focused on barriers to its adoption and steps that free software advocates could take to reach out to government agencies.

LibrePlanet itself is a unique conference: a techfest with mission — an entirely serious, feasible exploration of a world that could be different. Participants constantly ask: how can we replace the current computing environment of locked-down systems, opaque interfaces, intrusive advertising-dominated services, and expensive communications systems with those that are open and free? I’ll report a bit on this unusual gathering after talking about government.
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What’s Up With Big Data Ethics?

Insights from a business executive and law professor

by Jonathan H. King & Neil M. Richards

Photo provided courtesy of Jonathan H. King.

Photo provided courtesy of Jonathan King

If you develop software or manage databases, you’re probably at the point now where the phrase “Big Data” makes you roll your eyes. Yes, it’s hyped quite a lot these days. But, overexposed or not, the Big Data revolution raises a bunch of ethical issues related to privacy, confidentiality, transparency and identity. Who owns all that data that you’re analyzing? Are there limits to what kinds of inferences you can make, or what decisions can be made about people based on those inferences? Perhaps you’ve wondered about this yourself.

We’re obsessed by these questions. We’re a business executive and a law professor who’ve written about this question a lot, but our audience is usually lawyers. But because engineers are the ones who confront these questions on a daily basis, we think it’s essential to talk about these issues in the context of software development.

Photo provided courtesy of Neil M. Richards.

Photo provided courtesy of Neil M. Richards.

While there’s nothing particularly new about the analytics conducted in big data, the scale and ease with which it can all be done today changes the ethical framework of data analysis. Developers today can tap into remarkably varied and far-flung data sources. Just a few years ago, this kind of access would have been hard to imagine. The problem is that our ability to reveal patterns and new knowledge from previously unexamined troves of data is moving faster than our current legal and ethical guidelines can manage. We can now do things that were impossible a few years ago, and we’ve driven off the existing ethical and legal maps. If we fail to preserve the values we care about in our new digital society, then our big data capabilities risk abandoning these values for the sake of innovation and expediency.

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Four short links: 19 March 2014

Four short links: 19 March 2014

Legal Automata, Invasive Valley, Feature Creep, and Device Market Share

  1. The Transformation of the Workplace Through Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Automation — fascinating legal questions about the rise of the automated workforce. . Is an employer required to bargain if it wishes to acquire robots to do work previously performed by unionized employees working under a collective bargaining agreement? does the collective bargaining agreement control the use of robots to perform this work? A unionized employer seeking to add robots to its business process must consider these questions. (via Robotenomics)
  2. The Invasive Valley of Personalization (Maria Anderson) — there is a fine line between useful personalization and creepy personalization. It reminded me of the “uncanny valley” in human robotics. So I plotted the same kind of curves on two axes: Access to Data as the horizontal axis, and Perceived Helpfulness on the vertical axis. For technology to get vast access to data AND make it past the invasive valley, it would have to be perceived as very high on the perceived helpfulness scale.
  3. Coffee and Feature Creep — fantastic story of how a chat system became a bank. (via BoingBoing)
  4. The Rise and Fall of PCs — use this slide of market share over time by device whenever you need to talk about the “post-PC age”. (via dataisugly subreddit)
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Four short links: 10 March 2014

Four short links: 10 March 2014

Wolfram Language, Historic Innovation, SF Culture Wars, and Privacy's Death

  1. Wolfram Language — a broad attempt to integrate types, operations, and databases along with deployment, parallelism, and real-time I/O. The demo video is impressive, not just in execution but in ambition. Healthy skepticism still necessary.
  2. Maury, Innovation, and Change (Cory Ondrejka) — amazing historical story of open data, analysis, visualisation, and change. In the mid-1800’s, over the course of 15 years, a disabled Lieutenant changed the US Navy and the world. He did it by finding space to maneuver (as a trouble maker exiled to the Navy Depot), demonstrating value with his early publications, and creating a massive network effect by establishing the Naval Observatory as the clearing house for Navigational data. 150 years before Web 2.0, he built a valuable service around common APIs and aggregated data by distributing it freely to the people who needed it.
  3. Commuter Shuttle and 21-Hayes EB Bus Stop Observations (Vimeo) — timelapse of 6:15AM to 9:15AM at an SF bus stop Worth watching if you’re outside SF and wondering what they’re talking about when the locals rage against SF becoming a bedroom community for Valley workers.
  4. A Day of Speaking Truth to Power (Quinn Norton) — It was a room that had written off privacy as an archaic structure. I tried to push back, not only by pointing out this was the opening days of networked life, and so custom hadn’t caught up yet, but also by recommending danah boyd’s new book It’s Complicated repeatedly. To claim “people trade privacy for free email therefore privacy is dead” is like 1800s sweatshop owners claiming “people trade long hours in unpleasant conditions for miserable pay therefore human rights are dead”. Report of privacy’s death are greatly exaggerated.
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Big data and privacy: an uneasy face-off for government to face

MIT workshop kicks off Obama campaign on privacy

Thrust into controversy by Edward Snowden’s first revelations last year, President Obama belatedly welcomed a “conversation” about privacy. As cynical as you may feel about US spying, that conversation with the federal government has now begun. In particular, the first of three public workshops took place Monday at MIT.

Given the locale, a focus on the technical aspects of privacy was appropriate for this discussion. Speakers cheered about the value of data (invoking the “big data” buzzword often), delineated the trade-offs between accumulating useful data and preserving privacy, and introduced technologies that could analyze encrypted data without revealing facts about individuals. Two more workshops will be held in other cities, one focusing on ethics and the other on law.

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Four short links: 6 March 2014

Four short links: 6 March 2014

Repoveillance, Mobiveillance, Discovery and Orchestration, and Video Analysis

  1. Repo Surveillance NetworkAn automated reader attached to the spotter car takes a picture of every ­license plate it passes and sends it to a company in Texas that already has more than 1.8 billion plate scans from vehicles across the country.
  2. Mobile Companies Work Big DataMeanwhile companies are taking different approaches to user consent. Orange collects data for its Flux Vision data product from French mobile users without offering a way for them to opt-out, as does Telefonica’s equivalent service. Verizon told customers in 2011 it could use their data and now includes 100 million retail mobile customers by default, though they can opt out online.
  3. Serfdoma decentralised solution for service discovery and orchestration that is lightweight, highly available, and fault tolerant.
  4. Longomatcha free video analysis software for sport analysts with unlimited possibilities: Record, Tag, Review, Draw, Edit Videos and much more! (via Mark Osborne)
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The technical aspects of privacy

The first of three public workshops kicked off a conversation with the federal government on data privacy in the US.

Thrust into controversy by Edward Snowden’s first revelations last year, President Obama belatedly welcomed a “conversation” about privacy. As cynical as you may feel about US spying, that conversation with the federal government has now begun. In particular, the first of three public workshops took place Monday at MIT.

Given the locale, a focus on the technical aspects of privacy was appropriate for this discussion. Speakers cheered about the value of data (invoking the “big data” buzzword often), delineated the trade-offs between accumulating useful data and preserving privacy, and introduced technologies that could analyze encrypted data without revealing facts about individuals. Two more workshops will be held in other cities, one focusing on ethics and the other on law. Read more…

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Four short links: 27 February 2014

Four short links: 27 February 2014

A Fine Rant, Continuous Deployment, IBeacon Spec, and LaTeX Gets a Collaborative Multiplayer Mode

  1. Our Comrade, The Electron (Maciej Ceglowski) — a walk through the life of the inventor of the Theremin, with a pointed rant about how we came to build the surveillance state for the state. One of the best conference talks ever, and I was in the audience for it!
  2. go.cd — continuous deployment and delivery automation tool from Thoughtworks, nothing to do with the Go programming language. The name is difficult to search for, so naturally we needed the added confusion of two projects sharing the name. Continuous deployment is an important part of devops (“the job of our programmers is not to write code, it is to deploy working code into production”—who said this? I’ve lost the reference already).
  3. Apple iBeacon Developer Programme — info locked up behind registration. Sign an NDA to get the specs, free to use the name. Interesting because iBeacon and other Bluetooth LE implementations are promising steps to building a network of things. (via Beekn)
  4. ShareLaTeX — massively multiplayer online LaTeX. Open sourced.
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Four short links: 26 February 2014

Four short links: 26 February 2014

Library Box, Data-Driven Racial Profiling, Internet of Washing Machines, and Nokia's IoT R&D

  1. Librarybox 2.0fork of PirateBox for the TP-Link MR 3020, customized for educational, library, and other needs. Wifi hotspot with free and anonymous file sharing. v2 adds mesh networking and more. (via BoingBoing)
  2. Chicago PD’s Using Big Data to Justify Racial Profiling (Cory Doctorow) — The CPD refuses to share the names of the people on its secret watchlist, nor will it disclose the algorithm that put it there. […] Asserting that you’re doing science but you can’t explain how you’re doing it is a nonsense on its face. Spot on.
  3. Cloudwash (BERG) — very good mockup of how and why your washing machine might be connected to the net and bound to your mobile phone. No face on it, though. They’re losing their touch.
  4. What’s Left of Nokia to Bet on Internet of Things (MIT Technology Review) — With the devices division gone, the Advanced Technologies business will cut licensing deals and perform advanced R&D with partners, with around 600 people around the globe, mainly in Silicon Valley and Finland. Hopefully will not devolve into being a patent troll. […] “We are now talking about the idea of a programmable world. […] If you believe in such a vision, as I do, then a lot of our technological assets will help in the future evolution of this world: global connectivity, our expertise in radio connectivity, materials, imaging and sensing technologies.”
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The RSA/NSA controversy concerns you!

This controversy impacts everyone (and here's what we can do about it)

As a cyber security author and CEO of a security consulting company, I was personally shocked by the RSA’s attitude about the alleged secret payments it received from the NSA as well as its willingness to weaken its BSAFE product; especially after the weakness became public in 2006. I was even more shocked by the lack of outrage shown by many security bloggers, analysts, and security company executives.

The speaker-in-protest count has reached 13 speakers who have canceled talks they were scheduled to give at the RSA Conference (RSAC) next week, first and most notably, Mikko Hypponen, who published this open letter. A few outraged others have also spoken out about their decision to cancel their talks, including Dave Kearns and, via Twitter, Adam Langley and Josh Thomas.

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