Mozilla is throwing their hat into the ‘privacy commons‘ ring. Inspired by Aza Rankin’s ‘Making Privacy Policies Not Suck‘, Mozilla is trying to think through a series of icons intended to educate users about websites’ privacy policies. This is inspirational, insofar as a large corporation is actually taking up the challenge of the privacy commons, but at the same time we’ve heard that a uniform privacy analysis system is coming before….in 1998. A working draft for the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) was released May 19, 1998 during the still heady-times of people thinking that Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) could secure people’s online privacy or, at least, make them aware of privacy dangers. The P3P initiative failed.
Part of the reason behind P3P’s failure was the length of its documentation (it was over 150% the length of Alice in Wonderland) and the general challenge of ‘properly’ checking for privacy compliance. Perhaps most importantly, when the P3P working group disbanded in 2007 they noted that a key reason behind their failure was “insufficient support for curent Browser implementors”. Perhaps with Mozilla behind the project, privacy increasingly being seen as space of product competition and differentiation, and a fresh set of eyes that can learn from the successes of the creative commons and other privacy initiatives, something progressive will emerge from Mozilla’s effort.
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Don Reisinger’s posting on Pro-privacy initiatives are getting out of hand is a good read, even if I don’t think that he ‘gets’ the reason why privacy advocates are (should be?) concerned about Google Streetview. If you’ve been under a rock, Google is in the process of sending out cars (like the one at the top of this post) to photograph neighborhoods and cities. The aim? To let people actually see where they are going – get directions, and you can see the streets and the buildings that you’ll be passing by. It also lets you evaluate how ‘safe’ a neighborhood is (ignoring the social biases that will be involved in any such estimation) and has been talked about as a privacy violation because some people have been caught on camera doing things that they didn’t want to be caught doing.
Don: Privacy Wimps Stand Up, Sit Down, and Shut Up
Don’s general position is this: American law doesn’t protect your privacy in such a way that no one can get one or take a photo of your property. What’s more, even if you were doing something that you didn’t want to be seen in you home, and if that action was captured by a Google car, don’t worry – no one really cares about you. In the new digital era, privacy by obscurity relies on poor search, poor image recognition, and even less interest in what you’re doing. Effectively, Streetview will be used to watching streets, and little else.
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