On October 3 I’ll be presenting at Social Media Camp Victoria with Kris Constable about a few risks to privacy associated with social media. Kris is a leading Canadian privacy advocate and expert in information security and the operator of PrivaSecTec.
I’ll be talking about the use of traffic analysis and data mining practices that can be used to engage in massive surveillance of social networking environments and the value of drawing links between users rather than investigating the content of communications. The argumentative ‘thrust’ is that freedoms of expression and association may offer a approach to secure privacy in the face of weakened search laws. The full abstract can be read below.
Citizens are increasingly moving their communications and forms of expression onto social media environments that encourage both public and private collaborative efforts. Through social media, individuals can reaffirm existing relationships, give birth to new and novel communities and community-types, and establish the classical political advocacy groups that impact government decisions and processes. In coming together online for their various reasons, citizens expect that their capacity to engage with one another should, and in some respect does, parallel their expectations of privacy in the analogue world.
In this presentation, I first outline expectations and realities of privacy on and offline, with an emphasis on data traffic (i.e. non-content) analysis born from Signal Intelligence (SIGINT), and SIGINT’s use in civilian governmental practices. I then proceed to outline, in brief, how social media generally can be used to identify associations and a few reasons why such associations can undermine the communicative privacy expected and needed for the long-term survival of vibrant constitutional democracies. Rather than ending on a note of doom and gloom, however, I suggest a novel way of approaching privacy-related problems stemming from massive traffic data analysis in social media networks. While the language of freedom from unjustified searches is often used to resist traffic analysis, I draw from recent privacy scholarship to suggest that freedom of expression and association offers a novel (and possibly superior) approach to defending privacy interests in social media from SIGINT-based surveillance.