Author: suzannecosta2014

Clash of the Privacy Philosophies

Philosophers

 

I have just read a fantastic article in the New York Times. I haven’t seen the differing philosophies around privacy articulated better.  Max Schrems has done a wonderful by making this intangible, inanimate issue animated!

‘Where consumers are asked to read and agree to a company’s terms of service and decide what’s best for themselves. Max Schrems explains that “We only do this in the privacy field — dump all the responsibility on the user,” he also points out that consumers are not expected to make decisions about other complex issues, like food or building safety. “In a civilized society,” he said, “you expect that if you walk into a building it’s not going to collapse on your head.” Max Schrems’

 

 

Uberrific!

Capture dog

So I love Uber…I know that may sound contradictory considering I harp on about data privacy and the past troubles Uber has run into but stay with me.  Let’s start by reiterating the fact that they completely reshaped the traditional ‘for hire’ cab services, and now they are also taking their infamous innovation in the verticals most closely linked to delivering said service, all good so far? Well not quite; security, has since the inception of Uber, looked to be their Achilles heel.   These apparent weaknesses range from physical security e.g. driver inexperience, insurance challenges and most importantly the safety of its passengers’ person; to the security of the passengers information.

I find myself in a familiar dilemma, like many other consumers out there; I love companies like Uber that tailor to my personal needs making things super easy for my super busy lifestyle, but I am also super sensitive about how my information is treated, so how do I bridge this?

It definitely took me time to become the Uberlover that I am today, but the fact that I could now reach “public” transportation with a couple of swipes on my mobile phone was a big hooray.  Second, the fact I no longer had to fumble for payment, make change or wait for enough connection bars on a relatively archaic debit/credit devices was also a ‘oh wow’ moment.  Oh the dreaded times when coming back from a long flight home, followed by the long cab ride, only to stay in the backseat of the cab an extra 10 minutes in front of my house, while Johnny Everycab struggled to locate and operate his payment machine.

Okay, back to why to the real reason for bothering to put keyboard strokes to screen today.  Uber has introduced new technology to better protect the personal information and increase overall consumer safety with, “one of a kind” technology as described by Mir Juned Hussain’s article published in IT Web&Tech news. To summarize, the interaction between driver and rider, will now allow for telephone numbers to be masked by a technology scheme called “Disguised Phone Numbers”.  The article explains “The new tech innovation will ensure that any calls between riders and driver-partners are connected using anonymous phone numbers which will result into the fact that both the parties can interact with each other, coordinate a pick-up etc., without revealing any personal information”

The article also mentions that is just one of several initiatives to be put in place by Uber in recent months.  Others include passenger re-verification, SOS Alert systems linked to local law enforcement and Send Status that allows sharing of geo-location and trip info.  In effect, Uber has not only risen to the challenge of ensuring the safety of its passengers, it has far exceeded what is currently available within the traditional carrier’s repertoire.

Throwback Thursday – Privacy by Design

Computers are here to stay.  So are large organizations and the need for data.  So is the American commitment to civil liberties.  Equally real are the social cleavages and cultural reassessments that mark our era.  Our task is to see that appropriate safeguards for the individuals’s rights to privacy, confidentiality, and the due process are embedded in every major record system in the nation, particularly for the computerizing systems that promise to be the setting for most important organizational uses of information affecting individuals in the coming decades

1972 National Academy of Sciences Report “Databanks in a Free Society: Computers, Record-Keeping, and Privacy

 

Capture a

To PIMS or not to PIMS

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So another PIMS app downloaded and I hope this doesn’t end in the same old “meh” feeling I usually get.  There needs to be something more exciting or enticing about this stuff, despite its importance and function in our everyday lives.

I have tried quite a few of these tools/platforms/apps now.  I sign up to them  for research into the realm  of digital privacy, so I can share my findings with others and selfishly to exploit the best method of managing my own data.  Snooze… That’s my point.  How do I successfully drive interest and make people care about understanding what happens to all the data we type into our PCs, Laptops and Smartphones.  Owning this information is incredibly important but no one seems to care…yet.   Despite the recent plethora of “hacking” incidents, the most notable being the Sony Pictures hack, people don’t seem to realize that this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

I have signed up to Mydex, Ghostery, Handshake, PrivacyGrade, The Respect Network and Ello and each time I get really excited because at the core they are all great tools and ideas  that promise some spec of what I am searching for.  Unfortunately so many of these services are amazing in theory but in practice just aren’t particularly practical and perpetuate the  ‘so what’ question. The biggest shortcoming of all is their lack of customer insight which is an interesting paradox considering the nature of this blog!  I wonder how much these companies are talking to their customers and welcoming feedback.  None have followed up with me, and that is odd considering most are in their beta phase and could benefit from a two way conversation with the initial all important “adopters”. People very quickly become disinterested when there is no ‘real’ additional value.

I am getting frustrated at the lack of two way conversation or relationship that I think should come as part of the package. Come on PIMS, I am willing you on!

Which leads me nicely into the new app I just downloaded – CitizenMe,  which seems to be on the right track and has a rather nice gimmicky game like element.

The top 3 benefits of CitizenMe are;

1 – It helps you manage your social network profiles by showing you what your are sharing and quick links to update your settings

2 – It profiles your personality based on your social media content and describes you as others see you

3 – It translates your terms of services and notifies you of changes which includes a traffic light summary letting you know if the changes are good or bad

This is an incredibly easy app to set up and link with your other apps and social networks.  Navigation was also incredibly intuitive and the language was easy to understand – no legalese!  What I found most interesting was my personality profile based on my Facebook content and friends ‘likes’ or comments.  It was scarily accurate, describing my preferences for social occasions better than I could myself.  It got my age very wrong but I am too flattered to care.

photo

The interface is really cool and the thing most people will be interested in is their personality scoring but after that I fear that the ‘so what’ question could come up again.  How often will I really open this app?  How often will I use it?  What additional value will it give to keep attracting me back, let alone the average person who doesn’t really care about their privacy?

What would make you use a PIMS?

 

 

Who knew! God wants your mobile data too

Cartoon God

So long story short I stumbled across a great site for you to check out privacy ratings called PrivacyGrade.  I actually found this through reading an article by Kim Komando highlighting the cost to our privacy when we acquire free apps.  Of course some apps need our personal information such as google maps, but what about apps like the Despicable Me game or Fruit Ninja? Why on God’s earth do they need this information?  Speaking of God… more on that later.

We all know we don’t read the terms and conditions and unless you are on iOS you can’t set your own privacy settings on a case by case basis. This is where PrivacyGrade can help and it is run by a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University who have devised a simple grading system from A+ to D.  This grading model measures the gap between our expectations of privacy behavior vs the actual behavior.

For example when you download Google Maps you know they will need access to your location data, or Gmail will need access to your contacts to make sending emails easier, you know what to expect and therefor both these apps get an A.  “It does what it says on the tin” so to speak.

In terms of the low scorers the most surprising was the #1 Holy Bible app which scored a D, the lowest grade.  This app’s permissions require full access to your network, your user accounts, your phone status and identity, can read your contacts and track your approximate location.  Not only that but you also give permissions to third parties such as Flurry, Facebook, Tapjoy, Jsoup and Oauth!  Who would have thought catching up on ‘His Word’  would require so much of your passive data.

Also concerning is the related app Bible for Kids which requires the same permissions. This was graded C which I don’t understand as the details are pretty much the same and I would have thought that our expectations would be stronger around privacy considering the target audience.  Targeted advertising to your kids anyone?

If you can’t be bothered to read the T&C’s check out the Privacy Guide

 

 

 

Ello, Ello, Ello….

ello

 

So after quite a long wait I finally got my invite to Ello!

For those of you who haven’t heard of Ello it is the new social media platform which is committed to being ad free FOREVER.  This is truly exciting for a nerd like me who has a big interest in who owns/controls our personal information.  It has potential to offer a real alternative to other social platforms without the cost of  giving up our valuable information and pushing advertising right into our news feeds.

It does come with a learning curve so for any of you that are interested please be aware of the following

  • It is harder to use at first because it has unfamiliar terminology and navigation
  • You need an invite to become part of the network
  • It is ‘ad-free’ and promises to be forever
  • There are no ‘like’ buttons
  • You can upload photos but not videos (at present)
  • You don’t have to use your real name
  • You have two options for what comes into your news feed ‘noise’ or ‘friends’.  ‘Friends’ are people you have chosen to follow, just like Twitter and ‘noise’ are people you follow without alerting them to the fact you are following them
  • Your profile has limited components right now – a picture, a bio and your name
  • It is still in Beta so it is still growing and evolving – have patience
  • It is  transparent – it tells you what has been developed, what is coming and makes long-term commitments

I am probably a little starry-eyed right now and the proof will be in my network of friends and family being willing to go the extra mile and engage with Ello – currently they are most active on Facebook just like myself and why change?  For me it was their manifesto

Ello Manifesto

WOW 🙂

If any of you are interested in joining me on Ello, Let me know I am happy to send you an invite so that your wait doesn’t have to be as long as mine!

 

What would you do for a cookie?

blue-cookie-monster-girl-junel-photography-vintage-Favim.com-83019

 

It has been while since my last post so this story may feel a little old but a discussion last week made me reconsider the whys.

The story concerns Risa Puno giving away free (edible) cookies in return for personal and sensitive information at a Brooklyn Arts Festival.  380 New Yorkers were willing to give away their finger prints, partial social security numbers and have their photos taken without any explanation to what would happen with their information.  In fact if and when they did ask she would refer them to her terms of notice which was a page of small legalese giving her the right to share their information with third parties.

Isn’t this completely irrational?  OK the cookies looked pretty cool and probably tasted awesome but still it is completely illogical to give something so private away especially when it can be shared with anyone.  Do people lose all common sense and thought when it comes to a freebie?  The answer is obviously yes AND we all do it all the time and not just for a freebie but for convenience?  I don’t necessarily believe in mass irrational behavior though, having read Irving Goffman’s ‘Asylums’ he outlines how we take on roles to cope within our environment.  He describes these irrational rituals as institutionalization and quickly I began to see the rational within some of the odd habits you can see exhibited by patients within a medical institution.

On this basis I ask myself how we are conditioned or institutionalized to offer up some of our most personal information so easily and exhibit this irrational ritual nearly every day.

Last week at the TMRE conference I listened to Charles Duhigg talk about his book ‘The Power of Habit’.  I have read his book before but listening to him again reminded me of the cookie story.  To summarize, our habits are formed from cue’s and rewards.  Take the lab rat experiment conducted by Ann Graybiel. This is where a rat is placed in a T-shaped maze with the rat behind a barrier and chocolate at the end, when the barrier goes up there is a click and the rat finds the chocolate and then eats the chocolate.  The first time this happened it actually took him a long time to figure out where the chocolate was but as predicted each time he repeated the experiment he got faster and faster.  What became interesting were the measurements recorded of the rats brain activity during the experiments, at the beginning the brain activity showed high peaks right from the click of the barrier through to him eating the chocolate, but with each experiment the brain activity dropped between the click and the eating of the chocolate.  Over time the rat was literally able to follow the routine between the cue and reward without any brain activity – he had stopped thinking and acted on pure habit.

habit-loop

We do this all the time and I am sure you can remember a situation like arriving at work or home thinking ‘how did I get here’?- we literally switch off and go into a trance when something is routine enough, be it the gym, shopping or scarily the drive home.  Is this our institutionalization when it comes to giving our information away?  we are doing it every day, each time we go online, each time we purchase and each time we use our store cards, it has become so routine now that even cues and rewards aren’t necessary. This is such a bad habit that our lives can’t really function without doing it, we have agreed to these rituals to function effectively in our world.

Do you think it is rational or irrational to give your information away so freely?

 

 

 

 

Take back your privacy – Get Some Gusto

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“In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?” Al Gore

I read an interesting article on research-live today about a YouGov study that indicates that over 30% of people in the UK have deleted apps on their phone due to worries that their information is being sold or over-used.

It makes me ask myself if Europe is ahead of the curve not only in individuals concerns over privacy but more importantly the movement to get consumers to take control of their data.  When researching online I find much more information coming from organisations like Mydex or Ctrl-Shift who are based in the UK; not to mention European data protection laws being the most stringent in the world.

I was at an entrepreneur event in North Carolina last week and was speaking to company who had developed a PIMS app (personal information management services).  This app acts like a broker for individuals who wish to sell their own personal information which is collected passively on their phone.  It also gives the individual the ability to decide what  information can and cannot be sold which would automatically adjust the overall value.  A very smart tool that gives the individual complete transparency, control and reward.  The problem is the chicken and the egg; do you build a crowd of people before you have clients to sell the data to, only to risk losing them because there is no one bidding for their data?  Or do you need the client investment first which is hard considering you don’t have anything to sell yet?

There needs to be more gusto from the consumer in order for this to be solved, and this requires education about our privacy and what is currently happening with our data.  With this knowledge will come the customer desire for change, as the customer changes so too does the industry.

This is where I see the UK, quite frankly, kicking some butt in terms of education and forward thinking.  If I am wrong and you are aware of more high profile agencies in the Americas I would love to hear about them.

 

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