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 […]

The end of ideology? Big data and decision-making in politics

Throughout most of the 20th century, one leader or ruling party tried to frame the policy visions of the future and then act upon them. Mostly, ideology and simple heuristics were used to accomplish this goal which led to clear slogans, e.g. supporting a free market economy, lowering taxes or investing in education and other public goods. Above all, it was beneficial for two reasons. Firstly, it allowed the political leader(s) to reduce uncertainty by having a long-term agenda. Secondly, it could be used to justify themselves towards their constituents. However, we are currently witnessing a shift in western politics […]

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 […]

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 […]

Free Speech in Databases: Martians on Facebook

The European Data Protection Directive contains a list of seven principles governing recommendations on protecting personal data. One of them–‘access’–includes the right to view data being held about us and correct them if they are wrong. The purpose of this is to ensure that data about me are not used in contexts that I do not want them used in. It allows me to complete incomplete information and correct mischaracterizations of my character that I would consider damaging if they were viewed and/or used by someone. Say, for instance, that someone had a database with my gender written down incorrectly. I […]

Weekend Quick Hits

This is going to become a weekly thing. Just some quick notes about interesting things that have been floating around over the week and are worth a quick comment. On paying an unlimited fine, or the UK shills for the media industry: Ars was among a group of outlets commenting this week on the notice that the UK’s Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) put up on a domain it had seized, RnBXclusive.com. Below is a screencap of the warning that SOCA put up for 32 hours. The egregious thing here isn’t actually the domain seizure (although that game of whack-a-mole […]

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 […]