Privacy enhancing inventions – from the mobile bathing machine to the Anonymizer

“Privacy enhancing technology” is a new concept, but not a new invention. Throughout history conceptual, legal and societal challenges to the private sphere of people have always inspired innovative inventions.


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Let’s start from the argument that the accumulation of data is an interference

With one eye on current global debates concerning state surveillance and specifically the NSA Prism scheme, my other eye squint with concern. The arguments put forward supporting schemes such as Prism emphasize the “safe guards” claimed to have been put in place by governments (they do not mention the “transparency” of such schemes, which is a key element of the legal test). Also civil society privacy advocates seem to be mostly concerned with these safeguards, whether they are in place, how they are implemented etc. I’m squinting, because I worry that we get caught up in these arguments, intertwined in their legal particularities, the tests, their specific implementations. Are we not missing the grand picture here?


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NSA revelations: A momentum for privacy as a business model

No hardcore privacy advocate could possibly have been surprised by the recent revelations that we can have absolutely no expectation of privacy in our communicative endeavours today.  But the fact that the rest of the world actually seemed to have been taken by surprise (or at least acted like that) and was alarmed by this, might create a momentum for a change of perspective within the social media industry. Perhaps privacy will finally be perceived as a profitable business.

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Multistakeholderism: Old Power Relations in a fancy new coat or something new to the table?

Make an attempt to attend an “internet governance” initiative without considering the concept multistakeholderism. It’s impossible. Tweets and updates from the recent Internet Governance Forum open consultations and the WSIS+10 event in February as well as the currently ongoing ICANN debates in Beijing illustrate the big buzz word value of the concept. You can’t avoid it. “Multistakeholderism” is the word.


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A shared set of Internet Governance Principles

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” (Henri Bergson)

These past years the creation of a shared set of global Internet Governance Principles have been a key topic of discussion at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Apparently there are twenty something different sets of “Internet Governance Principles” worldwide developed in different contexts and with different purposes. Here’s one example from the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers (2011). This vast amount of principles of course leads to what has been named by many “forum shopping”. You pick from what every principles suits your purpose. And consequently this discussion about one set of principles, or at least a compendium of principles that may pave a uniform road forward.

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The 21%: Parents, youth and “surveillance”

The recent survey “Teens, Privacy and Social Media” is an interesting survey for many reasons. Here’s one more. Parents were asked if they had ever “surveilled” their children without their knowledge.  21% answered yes;  a result, which enticed a heavy debate in Danish media about parents control of their children’s online life via e.g. their Facebook profiles (see some of the debates here/links at the bottom).

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Privacy as innovation

“Privacy is an obstacle to innovation”.  This is a common argument when policy debates on privacy protection in the digital age reach the negotiation tables. And it seems to be the main argument behind the heavy lobbying efforts invested  by the industry in the discussions flourishing around the EU data protection reform. Thinking about the “Cloud” and “Big Data”, where data portability since the dawn of the digital age has been the essence of innovative development, it does indeed sound as an obstacle to then want to “protect data”. The concepts Portability and Protection do not sound very well in constellation. But it is all noise. How about embracing the opportunities of the open net and the autonomous private sphere simultaneously? All we need is a different mindset,  business model and tool kit.

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“Social Privacy”: Privacy as a social norm in a new form

Privacy is still a social norm – in one form or another – but for sure the way in which we administer our privacy in the open networks has transformed.  When we stop being able to control our privacy with “physical borders”, we start policing them with other forms of limits – social and cultural. Borders that are more invisible; tied up with shared values and social rules – but nonetheless relevant to be able to interpret and administer. This new container of privacy is emerging steadily alongside the development of the open networks.  Its more “silent” in the sense that if you need to understand how it works, you need to look at other things than e.g. people’s use of their “privacy settings” or whether they choose to be on Facebook or not. Because this is a different form of privacy administration that does not take point of departure in the actual architecture of the various services.

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Sliding from self-regulation to self-policing: When internet intermediaries are asked to balance rights

EDRI’s recent report “The slide from self-regulation to corporate censorship” addresses one of today’s biggest challenges when it comes to the balancing of our digital rights.

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Don’t get offended, get used to it: Wikileaks and the breaking down of authority in the network society

“…the more that is found out about what authorities do and know, the less they appear to deserve to be all-powerful authorities… high status is protected through special and exclusive access to information… heads of states who lose their control over information sometimes lose their heads as well” Meyrowitz, 1985, No Sense of Place –The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior, p.  166

Wikileaks’ recent leaks of diplomats’ and states’ off record negotiations and conversations have prompted a number of politicians to stand up for their right to privacy and confidentiality. They all seem a bit offended and surprised by this attack on their integrity. Hillary Clinton’s first response to the leaks was for example delivered with indignation and shock: “every country, including the US, must be able to have honest, private dialogue with other countries … When someone breaches that trust, we are the worse off for it.”


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Privacy and Jurisdiction in the Network Society

In the network society, the right to privacy is challenged by new automated methods of collecting data and global information networks used to their full potential by both state actors and non-state actors. New technologies hold a potential for increasingly sophisticated methods of state’s intelligence gathering and police investigations. Moreover, with the introduction of the internet, a space for private parties as data disseminators, collectors and processors has been created. This development has expanded the primarily negative scope of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights to include also positive obligations. In its case law, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has on several occasions addressed the challenges of technological progress to the right to privacy and stipulated the positive obligations of states when securing the appropriate balance between the benefits of technologies and the right to privacy. In some aspects the stipulations are rather clear however, there are some implications of the ECHR’s application of a primarily territorial definition of jurisdiction to the question of global information networks that creates a level of uncertainty as to the essence of state parties’ to the convention obligations….

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Memory and Media

“The present is trivia, which I scrible down on fucking notes”,  Leonard/Memento.

CNN had an article last week on how we use technologies as archives of our past Do digital diaries mess up your brain? :

“…today’s technology creates opportunities for greater, moment-by-moment record-keeping. Archives of your blog, Facebook or Twitter feed — both in text and in pictures — might reveal exactly what you ate on important occasions, the papers you were proud of and the outfits you wore”.

The article made me think of Leonard in Nolan’s film Memento who says: “The present is trivia, which I scrible down on fucking notes”.


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The clash




Molding tomorrow’s citizens into aware and empowered digital citizens should be an easy task. We’ve done it for centuries -raising children to become empowered in the society of tomorrow, that is. But there is a tiny problem though. In this very moment in the history of man, the velocity of technological development has been unprecedented. We’ve never seen anything like it. And we are a little bit stunned.

The point is that our everyday life is digital, so we need to be digital ourselves. The easiest thing I could do right now would be to blame the digital generational gap between children and their adults, point a big fat finger at the adults and say “Get used to it and educate!”It would be so easy. But of course I cannot do that.

In Denmark we do have a rather strong political focus on our role as participants in a globalized network society. Though, a recent survey evaluating ICTs in the Danish school made by the Danish evaluation institute EVA in corporation with the Danish Ministry of Education recently showed that teachers still need more training, that ICT is present in the school, but not functioning, that ICTs are not integrated well enough in the actual subjects, that knowledge sharing systems are primarily used for administrative purposes and that individual ICT initiatives were not supported sufficiently by the school management. These are some of the factors that influence the way in which we bring up kids to become functional empowered citizens of tomorrow.

But there are also the cultural and social factors. And what I see in the classrooms is a conflict between two sets of everyday meanings and practices (that is to say: two different cultures) that clash when students -that have grown up with digital media as natural elements of their everyday lives – and teachers -that have grown up in a completely different media environment – meet in the classroom.

New to Twitter

I have recently become a Twitter user – yes I know I am behind with creating an account… however…

This means that I am completly new to the social rules and customs of this specific community. And this is a great feeling. I guess this is the great thing about our internet communities in general; that we constantly have to recreate ourselves, moving between the many online  social and cultural spaces.  It  demands from people to be flexible.

On Twitter I love the  search engine where I can search any term I want and then being met with a list of “twitters” – moods, information, links, whereabouts – from people all over the world and fields.

At the present I feel a tiny bit lonely on Twitter though. I have only two “followers”, and I am not sure if I am providing them with anything useful with my twitters since they are 1) situated on each their side of the world and 2) work in two very different fields. The only thing that connects them in this world is me, because I know (or at least I have known) both of them at some point in my non-virtual life.

Well, somehow this is what makes the internet a great place to explore: The connecting points between the physical world and the virtual are people. And thus the life we live online is made of the stuff that makes us people: dreams, identity, ideas, imagination.

Images with “something else” attached to it…

It is often said that with global media the world has become smaller. We talk about “the global village” connected by wires and images that transgress and transform traditional borders – geographical and cultural. A place where the images and voices from around the world provide us with a greater “feeling” of cultures different and distant from our own. Media images let us know how “they” look, what “they” think, what “their” agendas are etc.

This is actually a very beautiful, but also very naive thought about how media affects our lives!

I was supposed to fly to Mumbai last night the 27th of November. But the night of the 26th of November, while I was getting ready for my trip, images of horrific events far away in Mumbai started sieving in through my television into my little secure homespere. And suddenly the world seemed so much smaller to me. Suddenly Mumbai was as close as the images I saw on CNN. I was folllowing the events as they unrolled as if I was there myself. And that’s when I realized that it’s not every day Mumbai seems just around the corner to me.

In the end I didn’t fly to Mumbai, but somehow it feels as if I have already been there. And this really made me think about how global media does not mean global consciousness. Although, I myself can thank global media for having grown up with a greater understanding of “the other”. I still believe that the media images we see every day are really just perceived as icons of what they represent. It is not until we attach the texture of our feelings to the media images that the world suddenly seems smaller. Our consciousness about the world is very much rooted in our everyday life experiences, choices and feelings.

We still need to add the “something else” to the images, before we can truly call the world a “global village”.

When Moblogger met Littlebrother – or how new communication technologies influence behaviour

New communication technologies provide people with the tools to be heard and to participate openly in society. They also influence the way we live our everyday lives and interact with each other. Could it be that our awareness of the communication technologies around us leads to a more self-conscious behaviour?

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From the year of “me” to the year of “oops!”

Every year Time’s Magazine awards the person of the year. In 2006, this person was by no surprise “me”. Well, not me as in “me Gry Hasselbalch”,  but “me” as in “me the web 2.0 user”. The award was an aknowledgement of the web 2.0 development and the excitement evolving around it.  A development where “I”, the average person, suddenly got the means to publish stories about myself and to build my online identity with images, texts “blurps!” etc. And boy were we  thrilled with the new ways of expressing ourselves?

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Self-regulation, organisation and governance among internet users

Inappropriate content ‘flagged’ by users, news items ranked by users, online sellers rated by users, online lexica articles written by users and silent agreements among users on socially acceptable behaviour in online communities…

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The Phone Booth – an image of old media use

From the stuffiness of the cinema and phone booth to the open networks of YouTube and mobiles: While one generation grew up using media in closed spaces, another generation is right now growing up acting and thinking in open networks. How do we, the adults, understand and, just as importantly, speak to the first generation of the network society?

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The usual discussion of Public – Private: but what about the mobile?

A gifted person recently drew my attention to the fact that our portable devices such as the mobile and the portable computer has a huge impact on the way we perceive the internet in a very particular way. The difference between the traditional use of the internet accessed via stable computers e.g. in the private sphere of the home and the wireless internet accessed via e.g. the mobile or the portable computer is in terms of the general perception of the medium and accordingly social uses of the medium. The internet was in the general public traditionally used mostly in the private sphere – at home. One major factor in regards to the use of the internet has therefore been the clash between the public and the private sphere, that is, the access of the public sphere into the private sphere – the home and most importantly into the child’s playroom. An important safety measure in regards to to eg. raising one’s child in the network society has therefore traditionally been to make children aware of the public nature of the internet when using it, e.g. when they produce content on the internet. But what if the use of mobiles to access the wireless network will cause a move of the internet from the private realm back into the public realm in terms of perception? And will this actually mean that people in general (and children) will become more aware of the public nature of the internet and accordingly new social rules connected with the use of the wireless network will automatically emerge? hmmmm….that might be the case. at least it’s a challenging thought. And by the way the man who drew my attetion to this and that I have just referenced is called Francesco Lapenta and is a lecturer in Visual Sociology at The University of Roskilde