In 1992 the public gained access to the former Eastern Germany secret service Stasi archives. They consisted of 180 kilometers files and 35 million other documents, photos , audio, documents and taped phone conversations. The archives are evidence of a gigantic effort. Physical penetration into people’s homes, hours of interception and handling of information. Stasi was established in 1950. This was also the year the European Convention on Human Rights was defined (signed in 1953 ) . Two years before in 1948, the UN Declaration on Human Rights was signed. Both had and still have an article on the right to privacy.
We have moved on to an important stage in the evolution of the internet characterized by an increasing demand from all sectors of society to regain control. This stage is comprised by legal/interstate responses to the challenges to privacy, technical community responses and civil society sentiments and actions.
“Tillid” har været år 2013’s buzz-word. Alle taler om ”tilliden til internettet”, som noget, der skal genskabes og genopbygges. Og den ”mistillid”, der er fulgt efter sidste års afsløringer om masseovervågning, præsenteres som et kerneproblem. Men måske vi skulle vente lidt med at genskabe tilliden til internettet.
This post is in Danish, because it was written for the Danish version of the Day we Fight Back campaign 11 February 2014. Read the English translation here.
– by Gry Hasselbalch
“Trust ” was the word of the year. Everyone talks about “trust in the Internet ” as something that needs to be restored and rebuilt. And the mistrust in the internet that followed last year’s revelations about mass surveillance is presented as a core problem. But perhaps we shouldn’t aim to reestablish trust in an internet that is fundamentally broken, before we have actually fixed it.
To assert control over the flow of images, personal content and social contexts is essential to young people when using social media. The Danish think tank Digital Youth published the report Youth’s Public and Private Lives on Social Media in November 2013. The report was based on interviews with young people about their strategies to preserve privacy as well as knowledge about data collection, surveillance, data protection and digital foot prints.
It is not as important to look for a new definition of the very contents of the concept of privacy as it is crucial to find acceptable common standards for the organizing principles of privacy today.
– by Gry Hasselbalch
If you mentioned privacy and data protection in a discussion about digital media business innovation, data portability and social sharing a few years ago, you would most certainly have been viewed as a spoilsport. But do the same today and you might actually assert yourself as a great innovator.
Part of my introduction to the Privacy as Innovation session at the Internet Governance Forum, Bali, 2013 with references
(IGF) Workshop (308) Background Paper and video of workshop.
“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.
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?
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.
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).
“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.
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.
“…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.”
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….