Privacy

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The program for the Sydney Opera House’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2012 is out, and I’m on it.

In particular, I’m on a panel discussion called I Share Therefore I Am on Saturday 29 September from 1pm to 2pm.

Whether we lead our whole life online or just dip our toes into the ‘digital pool’ for news or shopping, information about everything we do is being collected, and analysed. Should we accept that our digital footprint will follow us to the grave, shaping our life along the way? Or should we try to hold on to our privacy — even (or especially) when online? Hear from two people who live online, but have distinctly different points of view about the age of sharing and radical transparency.

The person other than me is Victoria Doidge, director of marketing, communications & customer services at the Sydney Opera House. She’s of the share-it-all view, ‘cos the worst that can happen is you’ll see more relevant advertisements. Or something.

I plan to kick off my part of the discussion by sketching out some alarming scenarios made possible by data mining all the things.

[Update 14 September 2012: Added link to session page on Sydney Opera House website.]

A couple weeks ago Telstra was caught monitoring the web browsing done by customers of its Next G mobile network and reporting them to an overseas company, Netsweeper. I’m writing more about this soon, so here’s some background so I can link to it.

Josh Taylor explained the story for ZDNet Australia, I did for Crikey, and of course there were others. In brief, though, Telstra told Netsweeper what URLs were being visited by Next G customers — in theory with any personally-identifiable information removed — so Netsweeper could discover new web content and classify it for the content filtering system they were developing for Telstra.

It’s a bit wrong. Telstra stopped the project quick smart. But some people, including me, reckon the situation is rather more serious.

Geoff Huston, chief scientist of regional internet registry Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), reckons it’s so far outside the law that law enforcement agencies should be getting involved. As a common-carrier telco, Telstra is in a privileged position. It shouldn’t be reporting anything about any aspect of digital communications to third parties, except as strictly required under law, just as it can’t do anything with analog phone calls.

Huston explained his views in a blog post, All Your Packets Belong to Us, and discussed it with me on this week’s Patch Monday podcast, Hands off our packets, it’s the law.

You can hear Telstra’s PR response on Phil Dobbie’s Twisted Wire podcast, Is your phone watching you?

(Neither of those podcasts are yet appearing in iTunes or other podcast application feeds. On Monday ZDNet Australia was merged into a new global content management system and the podcast feeds broke. I know the CBS Interactive technicians know it’s a problem, but I don’t have an ETA on when it might be fixed yet.)

On Tuesday, Whirlpool had what purported to be an internal Telstra memo from chief executive David Thodey, who seemed to agree that they’d very much crossed the line.

That’s why I want to remind everyone that privacy is not an aspiration at Telstra — it is an essential requirement and our license to operate.

Privacy at Telstra is everyone’s responsibility. We have to do better.

Now there’s some complicated issues in all this. I’ll be exploring them in the coming week. Meanwhile, do listen to those two podcasts and have a bit of a think.

This morning I was interviewed by ABC News 24 about the “Dark Web”, a term Fairfax news outlets used earlier this week in a story headlined The new underbelly. Since I was at the event in Sydney that triggered the writing of that story, I was happy to tone down some of the hype-scare.

By the “Dark Web” they meant things like Silk Road, a marketplace for all manner of illegality, and the Tor anonymity network that allows Silk Road to hide… somewhere.

I’ll update this post later today to include links to the other things I discussed with presenter Andrew Geoghegan.

If the embedded video doesn’t work for you, you can watch it over on YouTube.

This is a rough copy of the video for now. I’ll upload a better version as soon as it becomes available, though that’ll still have me staring mindlessly into the distance as I’m being introduced. Sigh. The footage is ©2012 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Here’s the complete audio recording of last weekend’s panel discussion iSpy at the Sydney Writer’s Festival with Tommy Tudehope, me and moderator Marc Fennell.

Even before Google controversially demolished the privacy walls between its various products, we were already living in the total surveillance society. With every keystroke we are voluntarily telling companies, governments and heaven knows who else an awful lot about ourselves. Should we be worried about the uses to which this information could be put?

The panel was originally inspired by my Sydney Morning Herald op-ed You are what you surf, buy or tweet, and I thought we’d also talk about some of the issues I raised in my more recent ZDNet Australia story The Facebook experiment.

But we covered a lot more, including research by Sophos that showed around 50% of people would automatically befriend anyone on Facebook, the progress of the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill and the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, the fact that The Greens’ Senator Scott Ludlam seems to be the only Australian politician paying attention to this stuff, using TOR to help make your web browsing anonymous, the surveillance policy split between the NSA and FBI, anonymous currencies like Bitcoin and Canada’s MintChip, Electronic Frontiers Australia, the Pirate Party Australia, Georgie Guy’s blog, and data mining company Acxiom — which in the recording you’ll hear me misspell as “Axxiom”.

Play

The recording was made using my Zoom H4n sitting mid-way between me and Mr Tudehope, so Mr Fennell is off in the distance somewhat. But at least we have a recording.

If there are any issues you’d like to follow up, well, please post a comment.

In February the Federal Court ruled that Optus TV Now, which recorded free-to-air TV on behalf of customers for more convenient playback later, was legitimate personal timeshifting as allowed under section 111 of the Copyright Act 1968. Yesterday the Full Federal Court overturned that decision.

This case has interesting implications. Originally, Justice Steve Rares said, effectively, that someone using a recorder-in-the cloud was still making a personal copy for domestic purposes. The fact that they’re using a recording device that’s provided as a service rather than sitting on the shelf under their television is irrelevant. The Full Court is saying, effectively, that the cloud provider is complicity in the action, which means it’s no longer personal, and in some cases may even be the sole actor.

This interpretation could have massive implications for providers of other cloud services. Could they be found to be copying data that they’re not entitled to? I’m no lawyer, so don’t ask me. But I can at least see that the law is having to deal with situations that are very different from the circumstances imagined when it was written.

Paragraph 100 of the Full Court’s decisions does say:

We should emphasise that our concerns here have been limited to the particular service provider-subscriber relationship of Optus and its subscribers to the TV Now Service and to the nature and operation of the particular technology used to provide the service in question. We accept that different relationships and differing technologies may well yield different conclusions to the “who makes the copy” question.

Will this decision be appealed? You bet.

Last night I spoke about the decision and its implications with Dom Knight on ABC Local Radio nationally — well, except for the analog transmitters that were broadcasting the cricket. I also spoke about the material I presented yesterday at DigitalMe in Perth.

Play

[Update: I just noticed that there's a couple of little audio gaps. I was recording off the stream, y'see. I'll fix them later.]

Personally, I stand by what I said in the opinion piece I wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald in February: Sport has to think outside the box.

If you’re in Perth today, the DigitalFamily event starts at 1000 local time at Northbridge Piazza. It’s free.

The audio is of course ©2012 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, but as usual I’m posting it here as an archive.

I’m speaking at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival in a free session on Sunday 20 May called iSpy.

Even before Google controversially demolished the privacy walls between its various products, we were already living in the total surveillance society. With every keystroke we are voluntarily telling companies, governments and heaven knows who else an awful lot about ourselves. Should we be worried about the uses to which this information could be put? Technology writer Stilgherrian discusses the implications of what we share with social media consultant Thomas Tudehope.

I daresay I’ll be covering material like that in my Sydney Morning Herald story You are what you surf, buy or tweet, and the more recent ZDNet Australia story The Facebook experiment, but the conversation will be up to you, the audience.

The theme for SWF this year is “the line between the public and the private”. As artistic director Chip Rolley says in his welcome message:

The question of the limits of what is personal is one of the hottest subjects around.

“Privacy is for paedos,” ex-News of the World journalist Paul McMullan told the UK Leveson Inquiry into the media. Now, via Facebook and Twitter, we voluntarily tell the world things we previously might not have told even our loved ones. Investigative journalists thrive on leaks and finding out what others don’t want us to know. And the state knows few boundaries (personal or political) in its need to prevent another 9/11.

(If you want a high-powered discussion of these issues, Sydney Town Hall discussion on Friday 18 May with former High Court judge Michael Kirby, former director general of MI5-turned-thriller writer Stella Rimington, former CIA interrogator Glenn Carle, media and news blogger Jeff Jarvis and investigative journalist Heather Brooke.)

iSpy is on Sunday 20 May 2012 at 2.30pm at the Bangarra Theatre, Pier 4/5, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay. It’s free, and you don’t need to book — but I’m told that it can sometimes get busy at SWF.

Before that I have speaking engagements on 27 April at DigitalMe in Perth and 11 May at the Saasu Cloud Conference 2012.

I’ll be in Perth on Friday 27 April to present at DigitalMe, one of a series of media140 events, the other two being DigitalBusiness on Thursday 26 and DigitalFamily on Saturday 28 April.

(These events are part of the City of Perth’s Innovation Month. It looks like there’s some good stuff happening, including the screening of some classic futuristic films.)

DigitalMe is a full day of activities that “takes the individual on a journey through the digital landscape of blogging, video, personal privacy, personal reputation, mobile web and social media helping to demystify the digital world and understand more about your personal digital footprint.”

My half-hour session at 2pm is “Destroying your world, tweet by tweet, like by like”:

Facebook, Twitter and social mobile applications encourage you to share your life. But what happens when you share too much? Every time you share, tweet, email or browse a website you leave a digital footprint that reveals far more than you may realise — or want. Find out what Facebook, Twitter and the secretive online advertising companies know about you and take control.

I covered some related themes in a piece for the Sydney Morning Herald a few weeks back.

DigitalMe is being held at Northbridge Piazza. It’s free, but you’ll need to register online.

I’m flying into Perth on Thursday 26 April around lunchtime and leaving on Sunday 29 April in the mid-afternoon. My schedule is fairly open so far, so other diversions are welcome.

I have an op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald today about the surveillance society, something that’s already with us.

Computers can tell when your daughter is pregnant. Sometimes they know even before you do. In a recent feature for The New York Times, Charles Duhigg describes how Target in the US analyses everything it knows about its customers. A young woman buying unscented lotion, a large handbag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a brightly coloured rug is likely to be pregnant. So Target dispatches coupons for baby clothes.

When a father stormed into a store complaining that his teenage daughter had received the coupons, Target was forced to apologise. But days later, he realised the store was right…

You can click through to read the whole thing. But since it was written for the dead-tree paper and not the website there are no links.

Here’s the links to my sources:

You might also enjoy some of my more recent articles on related topics:

So I ended up going quick chat just now on Radio 2UE just now about Apple’s newly-announced iMessage plans and Path’s privacy outrage.

While Apple’s iMessage isn’t new, extending the application to the Mac’s OS X desktop is, as are some of the iCloud-linked services. In part that’s shoring up Apple’s cloud services. And it’s certainly part of the threat to mobile telcos’ revenue that I wrote about for CSO Online yesterday.

The Path thing is just arsehattery of the first water.

Anyway, here’s the audio. The presenter is Tim Webster and you’ll also hear his regular guest Trevor Long.

Play

The audio is ©2012 Radio 2UE Sydney Pty Ltd, of course, but as usual I’m posting it here in case they don’t post it at their own website.

A weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets. I have no further explanations to add.

Podcasts

  • Patch Monday episode 117, “Is anonymity online your right?” A conversation with Scott Shipman, eBay’s global privacy leader, about online reputation and trust, data breach-notification laws, the behavioural targeting of advertising, eBay’s AdChoice technology for controlling that targeting, some of the clever things you can do by data mining eBay’s sales data, and how you might create the online equivalent of an untraceable cash transaction.

Articles

Media Appearances

  • I was a panellist on the Technology Spectator “webinar” [ugh!] “Board with security?”, which looked at why company directors need to understand information security a bit better and how they might go about it. The recording hasn’t been posted online yet, but I’ll put a link here when it is.
  • On Thursday night I was interviewed by ABC Radio News about a report by the Australian Government Competitive Neutrality Complaints Office, part of the Productivity Commission, into claims that the National Broadband Network’s grenfields fibre rollouts breached certain government policies. Exciting stuff. Sound bites were used on Friday’s morning’s AM program in a story headlined Government brushes off NBN criticisms.

Corporate Largesse

None. And I thought there’d be a bunch of corporate parties this week. But I spent most of the week at Wentworth Falls instead.

Elsewhere

Most of my day-to-day observations are on my high-volume Twitter stream, and random photos and other observations turn up on my Posterous stream. The photos also appear on Flickr, where I eventually add geolocation data and tags.

[Photo: A slender-billed cuckoo-dove, photographed at Bunjaree Cottages in the Blue Mountains. There's a lot of bird life up here.]

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