August 7, 2011

Internet Privacy: TELLING a friend may mean telling THE ENEMY

In the Quebec maritime museum by Lar4ry
In the Quebec maritime museum, a photo by Lar4ry on Flickr.

After the recent IETF in Quebec, I found htis poster in a maritime museum.

The problem with most of the Internet privacy initiatives is that they don't seem to start with a threat analysis: who are your friends (those with web sites you want to visit) and who are your enemies (those who would use your personal information for purposes you don't want), and how do you tell things to friends without those things getting into the hands of your enemies. It's counter-intuitive to have to treat your friends as if they're a channel to your enemies, but ... information leaks.

Via Flickr:
TELLING a friend may mean telling THE ENEMY


  1. A key here may be to hold data silos legally responsible for data breaches based on the potential damages of identity theft. Moreover, any ad agency or marketer that receives that information should also gain legal liability for keeping that data secure.

    That said there is a big gaping hole in this idea - it has limited effects on preventing government abuse of shared data. And while some ad agencies might say we have to be good citizens, given the internet's global nature, we need to accept that even if you think your government is generally trustworthy, is everyone's government trustworthy?

    Bundled with internet privacy is this dilemma of dealing the problem that some governments are fundamentally flawed and untrustworthy (maybe not yours, maybe not mine, probably North Korea), and so effective internet privacy requires skating around legal requirements.

  2. @Rand, it would be nice if it were possible to define "data silo" and "data breach" such that holding someone responsible meant something. But "data" doesn't flow or have impact in the same way that, say, a pollutant. The main problem with governance of privacy is that the way the web works doesn't match the metaphors we use to describe it.

    "Trustworthy" is another hard word to define. There are no data sources (including my memory) that I would trust fully. Trust is neither binary nor transitive, while "trustworthy" as a concept leaves out "to whom and for what" and carries the assumption that an organization is or isn't (binary choice).