Tag Archives: privacy

Big Tech moves to counter the NSA on the lobbying front


The fight for policy is often fought along K Street not in the Capitol or in the White House. In Gucci Gulch the future of industries is worked out. Who gets government largess, who does not. Who gets what contract, who does not. Who gets surveilled and…

Continue reading Big Tech moves to counter the NSA on the lobbying front

Want a Job? Learn how to work big data.

4 years ago I founded a small social media constancy. The idea was to manage the coming deluge of social media for businesses. Turned out to be a pretty good idea.

At first many businesses didn’t believe that social media was going to be as important as it has become. What seemed completely obvious to me was still not obvious to most businesses even into 2009. Then people began to wake up and the rest is history. Before I knew it I had Fortune 1000 companies emailing me. Companies which just 9 months before had no interest.

It has been a fascinating ride and one with many twists and turns.

Social media is by its nature a constantly evolving thing. This is one of 2 great challenges for businesses in today’s online world. Should a business spend time developing a Google+ presence? Many did. Not such a good idea, at this point. What about Foursquare? What happens if a company spends a million dollars on a social media engagement strategy only to have the environment turn on a dime?

The other great challenge is managing the crush of information which comes from doing social media well.

I can say from experience that this is a colossal task, and one that people have not yet figured out. So if you know how to run algos and know how to pick good trees from the forest, I suggest you look long and hard at a career in big data. It’s only going to get bigger.

Click here for more on this in the Huffington Post.

A New “Digital Cold War” Emerges

Last week in Dubai, Russia, China, the Arab countries, and much of Africa voted to end the Internet as an international , free and open space. They have voted instead to allow for the partitioning of the Net, in an effort to keep information – and people well regulated.

(From PCMAG.com)

“The Internet Society came to this meeting in the hopes that revisions to the treaty would focus on competition, liberalization, free flow of information and independent regulation – things that have clearly worked in the field of telecommunications,” she said. “Instead, these concepts seem to have been largely struck from the treaty text.”

Click here for the story.

Rewrite of Senate Bill lets Feds Read Your Email, Google Docs, Without a Warrant

The 4th Amendment may be very close to dead. If this bill becomes law, online the 4th Amendment is dead.

What’s the problem with the police trolling through your Gmail account looking for something? If you haven’t done anything you have nothing to fear right?


(From CNET)

Leahy’s rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — to access Americans’ e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge…

Leahy had planned a vote on an earlier version of his bill, designed to update a pair of 1980s-vintage surveillance laws, in late September. But after law enforcement groups including the National District Attorneys’ Association and the National Sheriffs’ Association organizations objected to the legislation and asked him to “reconsider acting” on it, Leahy pushed back the vote and reworked the bill as a package of amendments to be offered next Thursday. The package (PDF) is a substitute for H.R. 2471, which the House of Representatives already has approved.

One person participating in Capitol Hill meetings on this topic told CNET that Justice Department officials have expressed their displeasure about Leahy’s original bill.

Click here for the article.

California says employers can not demand access to one’s social media profiles

In a world where privacy is under constant assault, a small win.

(From SFGate.com)

Employers and institutions of higher education will be barred from demanding user names and passwords to social-media accounts of employees, job applicants and students under two bills that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Thursday.

California is the fourth state to enact such a ban this year. Congress defeated a similar measure. Those actions came after reports emerged that employers and university officials were demanding access to social media accounts.

Click here for the story.

Criminal Wiretaps Reduced by 14% in 2011

Not really cause for celebration though.

Wired reports that this decrease may simply be from less stringent adherence to warrant laws. The police, FBI, NSA, etc may just be finding ways around warrants.

(From Wired)

“What’s more, the government asserts, and judges are agreeing, that no warrant is required to obtain so-called cell-site data which identifies the cell tower to which the customer was connected at the beginning of a call and at the end of the call.

And Google announced last month that the United States sought user data from Google 6,321 times for the six months ending December 2011, up from 5,950 the six months prior.

Google’s transparency data is also limited as it does not include requests under the Patriot Act, which can include National Security Letters with gag orders attached. Nor does the data include anti-terrorism eavesdropping court orders known as FISA orders or any dragnet surveillance programs legalized in 2008, as those are secret, too.

The data Google is coughing up includes e-mail communications, documents and, among other things, browsing activity, and even IP addresses used to create an account. And we suspect that an alarming amount of the data is being turned over without a probable-cause warrant. Google isn’t saying.

In the United States, the law is so antiquated that a warrant is often not required to get Americans’ emails, and proposals to fix that have been met with silence in Congress.”

Click here for the article.

Internet Privacy and the Power of Mobile Phone Companies

Human Rights and Information Technology, Doing Well and Doing Good

Historically, telephony has been highly regulated while the Internet has not.  With the convergence of mobile telephony and the Internet, a host of regulatory and legal frameworks that manage spectrum and protect individual rights are being challenged for inadequacy.  In the developed world, governments fighting the war on terror want access to individual mobile phone and internet data.  In the developing world, oppressive governments from the Arab world to China, seek to aggressively suppress dissent by monitoring individual mobile phone and internet activity.  Human rights advocates worldwide are vigorously resisting governmental attempts to access individual data and often vilify the companies that comply with governmental requests, calling on companies to increase individual security and anonymity on mobile devices and resist government law enforcement requests.

What are the implications for companies like Google or AT&T?  Google was praised by human rights activists for pulling out of mainland China rather than comply with the government’s censorship requirements.   But Google’s decision was made easier because it was a distant 2nd in search queries behind Baidu and because it could provide uncensored service, albeit more limited, by shifting it from the Chinese mainland to Hong Kong.  Would Google have made a similar decision in countries where it enjoyed more significant market power?  In turn, AT&T has been criticized in the U.S. for compliance with Patriot Act requests, but has experienced more muted criticism overseas.

AT&T operates in over 150 countries via licensing agreements for spectrum access, and has more phones operating internationally than any other U.S. carrier, due primarily to large business customers.  Subsequently, one might assume that AT&T must wield great influence over resisting requests by governments seeking access to information on mobile phone customers.  But I was surprised to learn during the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference that mobile phone companies like AT&T, when confronted by governmental requests for individual customer data, are limited contractually.

To gain access to a country’s spectrum, mobile telephone companies must operate under the terms of a government’s license, which customarily includes requirements to provide support to government’s law enforcement as needed.  As with law enforcement requests under the U.S. Patriot Act, phone companies providing support to law enforcement is a thorny issue, but at least individual rights enjoy greater legal protections from government intervention in the developed world.  Not so in the developing world, as countries from China, Egypt, and Syria apprehend those they deem dissenters who are identified by monitoring individual telephone and Internet activities via consent of telephone companies.

There is a significant cost for a mobile phone company to secure licenses to operate in multiple countries and they in turn, make commitments to their individual and business customers to ensure access.  So when faced with a request from a law enforcement agency, one that might enable a government to suppress dissent that in the Western world would be commonplace and legal (e.g. Freedom of Expression), what should a mobile phone company do? 

First, a company has an obligation to ensure it’s a legitimate request, that it is issued pursuant to a country’s laws, that it comes from the appropriate government authority, and that the request fits the requirements outlined in the licensing agreement. But is that enough?  Some companies would argue that they are duty bound under a country’s licensing agreement to respond to the law enforcement request or risk losing its license.  And losing that license would have a material impact on operating performance, which may put corporate management in conflict with shareholders. 

But most human rights activists rightly dismiss companies who say they are simply following the laws of the country in which they operate. If lead paint is illegal in the U.S. but legal in a country overseas, should a U.S.-based toy company allow application of lead paint on its toys in that overseas country?   If freedom of expression is legal in the U.S. but illegal in an overseas country, should a U.S.-based mobile phone company like AT&T assist a foreign government in suppressing individual freedom of expression?

These are highly complex issues, uniquely nuanced for each country, and it is too simplistic to argue that a company must always take the moral high ground and refuse government requests, sacrificing their operating license if needed.  But should more companies like Google take stands when faced with what they perceive as law enforcement requests that violate human rights, even if legal by that country’s norms?

Most human rights advocates recognize the complexity of the issues but argue that companies like AT&T have an obligation to wield their power to ensure their customers’ anonymity and security, resisting law enforcement requests that seemingly violate basic human rights, to delay compliance as long as possible.  Some note that with Arab Spring, governments fell so quickly that if mobile phone companies delayed compliance, some human rights activists might still be alive today.

For human rights activists, the stakes can be life or death; for companies, it’s their brand reputation.  But with the advent of social media, this brand reputation damage can be immediate, impacting employee morale, incurring investor ire and increased media scrutiny and consumer backlash via grassroots campaigns.  So it’s incumbent upon companies to be at the table.  At the Silicon Valley Human Right conference, I was pleased that representatives from companies like AT&T, Google, Twitter, and Facebook, were present and engaging in robust dialogue.  For it is only through such dialogue,  between corporate and stakeholder opinion leaders, that we will be able to identify and effect the systemic solutions, protecting individual freedoms and enhancing brand reputation, that we need to see.

Internet freedom crusader John P Barlow says curbs ‘stupid’

John Perry Barlow, the legendary internet rights advocate and Future 500 Senior Fellow, speaks with The Economic Times about Internet freedom in India.

“It is the usual problem where you have a bunch of people who don’t know the environment trying to protect you from things that might go wrong in it. And trying to impose themselves in the ways they can’t,”

Click here for the piece