Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Privacy, Cyberspace and Technology

Schneier has put together a fairly good article on privacy and the future expectations with regards to technology overall. There is a lot of discussion of cyberspace and his usual rant against the Bush administrations abuse of privacy (while ignoring that the ONE has effectively continued those same policies).
Aerial surveillance, data mining, automatic face recognition, terahertz radar that can "see" through walls, wholesale surveillance, brain scans, RFID, "life recorders" that save everything: Even if society still has some small expectation of digital privacy, that will change as these and other technologies become ubiquitous. In short, the problem with a normative expectation of privacy is that it changes with perceived threats, technology and large-scale abuses.

Clearly, something has to change if we are to be left with any privacy at all. Three legal scholars have written law review articles that wrestle with the problems of applying the Fourth Amendment to cyberspace and to our computer-mediated world in general.

George Washington University's Daniel Solove, who blogs at Concurring Opinions, has tried to capture the byzantine complexities of modern privacy. He points out, for example, that the following privacy violations -- all real -- are very different: A company markets a list of 5 million elderly incontinent women; reporters deceitfully gain entry to a person's home and secretly photograph and record the person; the government uses a thermal sensor device to detect heat patterns in a person's home; and a newspaper reports the name of a rape victim. Going beyond simple definitions such as the divulging of a secret, Solove has developed a taxonomy of privacy, and the harms that result from their violation.

His 16 categories are: surveillance, interrogation, aggregation, identification, insecurity, secondary use, exclusion, breach of confidentiality, disclosure, exposure, increased accessibility, blackmail, appropriation, distortion, intrusion and decisional interference. Solove's goal is to provide a coherent and comprehensive understanding of what is traditionally an elusive and hard-to-explain concept: privacy violations. (This taxonomy is also discussed in Solove's book, Understanding Privacy.)

There's a lot more, so take a look. It's worth the time and the links are worth the time as well.

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