Assumptions on Privacy: It’s meaning and relationship with other rights

As far as internet privacy, everyone uses similar language  and appears to want the same end goal.  Firms like Google and Facebook are arguing that they are supportive of principles of digital privacy like what Europe is advocating.  US-based experts argue that there are many laws in place that amount to online privacy.  Is the issue a philosophical one? Here are some statements to see if any assumptions can be identified:


Ultimately, responsibility for deleting content published online should lie with the person or entity who published it. Host providers store this information on behalf of the content provider and so have no original right to delete the data. Similarly, search engines index any publicly available information to make it searchable. They too have no direct relationship with the original content.


Speaking yesterday at a conference on digital privacy taking place in London, Facebook’s Simon Milner, director of public policy in the UK and Ireland, said: “The right to delete your online data is an important one, the right to erasure is a key principle. However, the right to be forgotten… raises many concerns with regard to the right of others to remember and to freedom of expression. It is important this can be implemented in practice, but as drafted the current proposal risks introducing measures which are both unreasonable and unrealistic.

EU is not impressed:

Reding added: “The European rules [will] apply to every company … which operates in the internal market. The EU is a large market with 500 million citizens. If you want to take advantage of this goldmine, then apply the rules. Facebook and such providers like the one-stop shop. They like the fact that the rules are the same everywhere. There’s no opt-out. This is an internal market regulation. It’s a decision that will be taken by majority rule.”


Viviane Reding, the EU justice commissioner, said: “At present a citizen can request deletion only if [data is] incomplete or incorrect. We want to extend this right to make it stronger in this internet world. The burden of proof shall be on the companies. They will have to show that data is needed.”

So first we see how privacy is not being discussed in isolation, with other rights such as freedom of expression being invoked by Facebook, Incidentally, this freedom of expression online was affirmed by the United Nations in 2012, with online expression being declared a human right.  For Google, they emphasize individual responsibility and ‘ownership’ being emphasized by Google.  Second are different views on the relationship between businesses, enterprises and the government. Reding’s frame is that the individual should be protected from unreasonable private sector practices.  That businesses should conform to US Law.

A 2004 report published in The Yale Law Journal explores the philosophical conceptions between privacy in Europe and USA.  The argument presented is that, “American law shows a far greater sensitivity to intrusions on the part of the state, while continental [European] law shows a far greater sensitivity to the protection of one’s public face.” (my emphasis)

My initial reaction to this is that while American’s may be hostile to state involvement, there is a tendency to enable contract law.  One can read about this in detail in the book Liberalizing the European Media, by Shalini Venturelli, Professor of International Communication at American University.  In one of her chapters, Venturelli details how privatization of law, state, constitutional law and public goods have forced the balance of content regulation regimes heavily in favor of  pre-political contract law as favored by global corporations.  Efforts at legislating a right to be forgotten might be a potential schism in the intellectual property rights regime between European legislators, and powerful US-based multinational corporations (along with their sympathetic American legal intelligentsia) –at least as far as data privacy is concerned.


Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest: What are the differences?

This is not a which platform is the best. Rather, I’m interested in two things how one would use them differently, either as an individual or as an organization (for this post I can only talk from a personal level).

Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest function differently for me. Facebook is good for goofing off and for seeing what actual real life friends are up to–the same vibe that would be there if I was out at a dinner party or watching a game at a sports bar with intimate friends. I try to keep it to real life friends–no padding of the friends list (are people still doing that?). I also follow pages from interests.

Pinterest, I use it as a visual dream and inspiration book. Basically visual representations of whatever I’m interested in, whatever inspires me, etc etc. I don’t even use it to connect or network, it’s just me stuck in my head with my daydreams.

Twitter, now this is the interesting one. I’m on there to follow my academic interests–social media and also international politics but I find it the most problematic to use coherently. Several reasons for that:

  • Many accounts push out update after update of nothing but links. And I’m not talking spam, but actual organizations, just posting links, often to their own site.
  • Some public personalities and authorities in some of the areas, post a lot of intimate and personal stream-of-consciousness style, and sometimes at a rate of 10 posts an hour which crowds out the feed a little.
  • I am also interested in sports, and other things that I wouldn’t mind following on Twitter like events on my favorite series and what have you. Is Twitter necessarily only for following one area or one niche?
  • I do chat some political stuff. Nothing childish, and no flame wars, but political nonetheless. This is even though I only follow one political personality, but I have a list (maybe I should discontinue it?)

What I’m grappling with is how to resolve all of the above issues as far as my Twitter use. Even the political stuff which I initially was about to say is self-inflicted is a tough one, as politics is very much relevant to studying social media. Message diffusion, hashtags, agenda setting, media narratives, etc. are all interesting topics.  Any ideas?

The fourth platform, Google+ I’m completely stumped. Perhaps i can migrate the fan pages from Facebook to there, especially now that Google Reader has been retired. It may be relatively painless as I’m already in the Google ecosystem.

There’s of course Linkedn and Tumblr, but by now I think one would be getting over stretched.

Major from the anime, Ghost in Shell

We are already cyborgs

Over at CNet, they’re highlighting a few things to watch from Google. Two stand-out–the new “google glass” and a super-search engine being designed by futurist Ray Kurzwell.


First glasses, next contact lenses, next implants?

I am  fascinated by this.  I am not saying it is “good” or “bad”  as I tend to be neutral on technology. I am not all in with technology determinism nor am I a techno-skeptic like, say Evgeny Morozov. I was listening to a talk a few months ago, I cannot remember who it was, but the speaker was arguing that in many western and Asian societies, we’re already on the path to being cyborgs. His argument was that for all intents and purposes, phones have become part of people. If you don’t answer a text right away, it’s received in the same was as if you were snubbing the person face-to-face in conversation  Or if you look at any line anywhere when you’re out, people will be fiddling on their phones–they’re daydreaming through their phones.  I would argue that this  extension transference has already set us on a path to being hybrid robots–and I don’t mean having bionic arms, but what I mean is that in terms of functioning, computing devices are clearly integral to our sense of self and for routine tasks (for example, you don’t have to think of where the post office downtown is, just put in the GPS and it will walk you there).

You can see this with fashion too, the iPhone, iPod, etc are like clothes now, I mean, chic, swanky ladies don’t roll with blackberries–notice how they all are outfitted with iPhones?  Technology is already having an impact on the morphology of the human species, I wonder where this will lead to in a few years–these changes are happening very fast.

This will have future policy implications for cyber-security,  intellectual property rights, human rights and international commerce. For example, as it is, mobile phones are already wicked problems–see net neutrality in USA or Europe, the weaponization of cellphones in conflict zones such as in Iraq, etc.

Read the CNet article here.

Google Fiber can be a game-changer in the US internet industry

With Google Fiber’s new roll-out of their internet service in Kansas City, MO, there is the potential for them to change the way internet is delivered and consumed in the United States.  First, they are offering VERY CHEAP (almost free) internet.  Second, NO CAPS.  This begs the question–if they can do this, why can’t Verizon or Comcast? Now a business or a corporation needs to make their money, nobody is expecting free internet from mainstream, traditional companies like ATT.  However, clearly there is some collusion in the industry as one can see in their refusal to truly innovate or increase bandwidth speeds.

There should also be a selfish incentive for the United States to want a fast internet.  It’s no longer the industrial age, it’s the information age now, and the global knowledge economy of the future may depend a lot on the robustness, breadth and depth of internet delivery available to populations. The United States is not even in the top 30 countries in the world on internet speed (full rankings can be found at the Net Index), which is strange for a nation in which elected officials often boast about their intent on keeping America number 1 in everything.

I am pro-google guy myself, I think they remain an innovative company, that is still generally consumer oriented.  While Google Fiber itself may not go nationwide, and while the internet is not going to be free, let’s hope that they can move the industry towards their vision.

Google Fiber— What You Get For:

$120/month (with 2-year contract)

  • 1 gigabit-per-second downloads and uploads
  • Cable-like “full channel TV lineup” (major networks plus standard basic cable offerings—Animal Planet to the Weather Channel)
  • Nexus 7 tablet
  • Set-top box, Ethernet/Wi-Fi router, 2TB DVR
  • 1TB Google Drive cloud storage

$70/month (with 1-year contract)

  • 1 gigabit-per-second downloads and uploads
  • Ethernet/Wi-Fi router
  • 1TB Google Drive cloud storage

$300 one-time startup fee (can be divided into 12 monthly payments)

  • 5 megabyte-per-second downloads, 1 megabyte-per-second uploads
  • Ethernet/Wi-Fi router
  • Free service guaranteed for 7 years

Visit the google fiber site for the full details on Google Fiber