Peered Privacy

Talked a bit about some ideas I’m thinking about lately in the surveillance class. I haven’t been posting my overheads so much this semester because I haven’t been using them, but I did put up the slides for this talk (pdf). I’ve been thinking a bit about how the thrust behind the creative commons licenses might be applied to issues of privacy. At the most prosaic level, this looks something like P3P, but I think we need to set up a framework that will work for the quickly evolving technology.

What does that mean? First, it means making preferences clear that are fairly complex. That is, setting up access control lists, and trusted groups, and making our preferences fairly robust. Second, we need reputational enforcement and authentication measures, so that we know whether to trust the policies proffered by those wanting our info. Finally, we need to make sure that whatever framework for privacy we develop will work offline as well as on. That is, when I talk with someone and tell that person something private, I want the metadata to also be accessible to them. I want to be able to formalize “keep this under your hat.”

There are parallels to how licenses might be interpreted in physical places. Take, for instance, a talk I went to this week by Barry Wellman earlier this week. What if everyone who brought audio recorders would have those recorders wirelessly interact with the room and with the speaker to determine whether he could be recorded, and if he could, how that recording could be used. This seems silly, in some ways, at this stage, but sometime soon it will be impossible to go anywhere you are not recorded by a video camera of some sort. We need a framework that will make these devices usable, and allow them to benefit society, while giving individuals an ability to express their wishes and collectively demand that those wishes be enforced.

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