#Celebgate: Searching for Illicit Content During the 2014 Celebrity Photo Leaks

On August 31st, 2014, nearly 500 sensitive images captured from the mobile phones of various celebrities were released onto 4chan.com. With alarming alacrity, these stolen personal photographs made their way to slightly more mainstream content sites, including Reddit, Tumblr and Twitter. Internet users and media respondents have termed the phenomenon “Celebgate” or, more popularly and vulgarly, “The Fappening” (a portmanteau between happening and slang for masturbation). The leak raised numerous questions about privacy rights online, iCloud security, and the responsibilities of host sites. With the takedown of these photos as an exemplar, how do we search for information that makes […]

The Cyber Security of the State

On November 24 2014 unidentified hackers released troves of personal and business information from Sony Pictures, including personal emails, information about salaries and unreleased films. The hack and the subsequent threats made to Sony led to the temporary cancellation of the release of their film, The Interview. This ordeal had a serious financial impact on the company, not to mention the precedent it set in terms of censorship. President Obama went as far as to question Sony’s decision to withdraw the movie, stating that: “We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the […]

Unpacking patient trust in the “who” and the “how” of Internet-based health records

In an attempt to reduce costs and improve quality, digital health records are permeating health systems all over the world. Internet-based access to them creates new opportunities for access and sharing – while at the same time causing nightmares to many patients: medical data floating around freely within the clouds, unprotected from strangers, being abused to target and discriminate people without their knowledge? Individuals often have little knowledge about the actual risks, and single instances of breaches are exaggerated in the media. Key to successful adoption of Internet-based health records is, however, how much a patient places trust in the […]

How Privacy Advocates Respond to Piracy Hawks: a rudimentary analysis on public salience

It makes sense that the salience of these two issues would be related. Anti-piracy laws and countermeasures tend to violate traditional privacy norms – indeed they are perhaps the biggest threat to our online privacy these days. The Google insight chart below shows the relative volume of ‘privacy’ and ‘piracy’ in news headlines since 2008. What we see here is that often after an upward blip in the public salience of piracy, there is a corresponding upward blip in the public salience of privacy (there are, however, spikes in privacy that are seemingly unrelated to piracy salience). This fits with […]

Losing a Grip on Your Facebook Account? You’re Not the Only One

Having a Facebook page is becoming more and more of a liability. Surely we’ve heard it all before, though. Journalists, authors, bloggers, and even occasionally incredulous Masters’ students love talking about the potential negative Facebook effects, from loss of self-esteem to increased anxiety or jealousy. But there’s a much more tangible one: you can be expelled or not hired based on what is posted on your Facebook wall. This is hardly a newsflash depending on how jaded you are about invasions of privacy, but the situation has gotten worse. In 2009, the University of Oxford’s student population discovered that their […]

What Privacy Advocated DO Get About Data Tracking on the Web

This post is a clarification of some recent work I have done, which I think has been taken in slightly a different manner than I intended it. The clarification is substantive. I wrote a piece recently for The Atlantic entitled, “It’s Not All About You: What Privacy Advocates Don’t Get About Data Tracking on the Web.” The thesis of this piece was, essentially, the power that massive user and behavioral data gives private corporation (and the asymmetry between them and everyone else) is more important ramification of this new ecology than any individual level breech of personal information. Creepily targeted […]

Facebook’s IPO–Outsourcing the push to shrink privacy

Facebook has been accused of shrinking the public’s “right to be let alone.” Soon they will be able to call on shareholders to demand that the government leave Facebook alone. If you’re a privacy advocate, this is worrying. Facebook’s IPO will increase the number of voices shouting on their side when regulators eventually threaten their pursuit of profit. Goldman may have a large stake right now, but if Goldman, Morgan Stanley, and shareholders-like-you own a piece of the pie, the desire to increase the size of the pie is spread more broadly. Facebook is our case study, but their situation […]

Cyber Negligence: Sending My Grandma to Jail

Confession time: Both my grandmother and I routinely fail to keep our home computer and web-browser security up to date. Are we bad ‘netizens’ if we leave the keys in the ignition of our unlocked computer? Is it reasonable to complain about Anonymous without ensuring that my laziness (her inability) isn’t giving them easy ammunition for their cyber-dissent? Is our activity criminally negligent, and if so why can’t we be punished for it? Last year, authorities in Spain arrested three suspects for allegedly downloading and booting up a program (called a Low Orbit Ion Cannon or LOIC) that lets the […]