Recommended Books from 2011 Readings

BookDespite some cries that the publishing industry is at the precipice of financial doom, it’s hard to tell based on the proliferation of texts being published year after year. With such high volumes of new works being produced it can be incredibly difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff.  Within scholarly circles it (sometimes) becomes readily apparent what books are above middling quality by turning to citation indices, but outside of such (often paywall protected) circles it can be more challenging to ascertain what texts are clearly worth reading and which are not.

While I can hardly claim to speak with the weight of scholarly indices, I do read (and rate) a prolific number of texts each year. In what follows, I offer a list of the ‘best’ books that I read through 2011. Some are thought-provoking, others were important in how I understood various facets of the policy process, and still others offer interesting tidbits of information that have until now been hidden in shadow. For each book I’ll identify it’s main aim and a few points about what made the book compelling enough to get onto my list. Texts are not arranged in any particular ranking order and all should be available through your preferred book seller.

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Vancouver’s Human Flesh Search Engine

Photo by Richard Eriksson

I don’t like violence, vandalism, or other actions that generally cause destruction. Certainly there are cases where violent social dissent is a sad but important final step to fulfil a much needed social change (e.g. overthrowing a ruinous dictator, tipping the scale to defend or secure essential civil rights) but riotous behaviour following a hockey game lacks any legitimating force. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of game seven between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins a riot erupted in downtown Vancouver that caused significant harm to individuals and damage to the urban environment.

The riot itself is a sad event. What is similarly depressing is the subsequent mob mentally that has been cheered on by the social media community. Shortly after the riot, prominent local bloggers including Rebecca Bollwitt linked to social media websites and encouraged readers/visitors to upload their recordings and identify those caught on camera. In effect, Canadians were, and still are, being encouraged by their peers and social media ‘experts’ to use social media to locally instantiate a human flesh search engine (I will note that Bollwitt herself has since struck through her earliest endorsement of mob-championing). Its manifestation is seemingly being perceived by many (most?) social media users as a victory of the citizenry and inhabitants of Vancouver over individuals alleged to have committed crimes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have significant issues with this particular search engine. In this post, I’m going to first provide a brief recap of the recent events in Vancouver and then I’ll quickly explain the human flesh search engine (HFSE), both how it works and the harms it can cause. I’m going to conclude by doing two things: first, I’m going to suggest that Vancouver is presently driving a local HFSE and note the prospective harms that may befall those unfortunate enough to get caught within its maw. Second, I’m going to suggest why citizens are ill-suited to carry out investigations that depend on social media-based images and reports.

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References for ‘Putting the Meaningful into Meaningful Consent’

By Stephanie BoothDuring my presentation last week at Social Media Club Vancouver – abstract available! – I drew from a large set of sources, the majority of which differed from my earlier talk at Social Media Camp Victoria. As noted earlier, it’s almost impossible to give full citations in the middle of a talk, but I want to make them available post-talk for interested parties.

Below is my keynote presentation and list of references. Unfortunately academic paywalls prevent me from linking to all of the items used, to say nothing of chapters in various books. Still, most of the articles should be accessible through Canadian university libraries, and most of the books are in print (if sometimes expensive).

I want to thank Lorraine Murphy and Cathy Browne for inviting me and doing a stellar job of publicizing my talk to the broader media. It was a delight speaking to the group at SMC Vancouver, as well as to reporters and their audiences across British Columbia and Alberta.

Keynote presentation [20.4MB; made in Keynote ’09]


Bennett, C. (1992). Regulating Privacy: Data Protection and Public Policy in Europe and the United States. Ithica: Cornell University Press.

Bennett, C. (2008).  The Privacy Advocates:  Resisting the Spread of Surveillance.  Cambridge, Mass:  The MIT Press.

Carey, R. and Burkell, J. (2009). ‘A Heuristics Approach to Understanding Privacy-Protecting Behaviors in Digital Social Environments’, in I. Kerr, V. Steeves, and C. Lucock (eds.). Lessons From the Identity Trail: Anonymity, Privacy and Identity in a Networked Society. Toronto: Oxford University Press. 65-82.

Chew, M., Balfanz, D., Laurie, B. (2008). ‘(Under)mining Privacy in Social Networks’, Proceedings of W2SP Web 20 Security and Privacy: 1-5.

Fischer-Hübner, S., Sören Pettersson, J. and M. Bergmann, M. (2008). “HCI Designs for Privacy-Enhancing Identity Management’, in A. Acquisti and S. Gritzalis (eds.). Digital Privacy: Theory, Technologies, and Practices. New York: Auerbach Publications. 229-252.

Flaherty, D. (1972). Privacy in Colonial England. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia.

Hoofnagle, Chris; King, Jennifer; Li, Su; and Turow, Joseph. (2010). “How different are young adults from older adults when it comes to information privacy attitudes and policies?” available at:

Karyda, M., Koklakis, S. (2008). ’Privacy Perceptions among Members of Online Communities‘, in A. Acquisti and S. Gritzalis (eds.). Digital Privacy: Theory, Technologies, and Practices. New York: Auerbach Publications, 253-266.

Kerr, I., Barrigar, J., Burkell, J, and Black K. (2009). ‘Soft Surveillance, Hard Consent: The Law and Psychology of Engineering Consent’, in I. Kerr, V. Steeves, and C. Lucock (eds.). Lessons From the Identity Trail: Anonymity, Privacy and Identity in a Networked Society. Toronto: Oxford University Press. 5-22.

Marwick, A. E., Murgia-Diaz, D., and Palfrey Jr., J. G. (2010). ‘Youth, Privacy and Reputation (Literature Review)’. Berkman Center Research Publication No. 2010-5; Harvard Law Working Paper No. 10-29. URL:

O’Reilly, T, and Battelle, J. (2008), ‘Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On’. Presented at Web 2.0 Summit 2009, at

Steeves, V. (2009). ‘Reclaiming the Social Value of Privacy‘, in I. Kerr, V. Steeves, and C. Lucock (eds). Privacy, Identity, and Anonymity in a Network World: Lessons from the Identity Trail. New York: Oxford University Press.

Steeves, V, and Kerr, I. (2005). ‘Virtual Playgrounds and Buddybots: A Data-Minefield for Tweens‘, Canadian journal of Law and Technology 4(2), 91-98.

Turow, Joseph; King, Jennifer; Hoofnagle, Chris Jay; Bleakley, Amy; and Hennessy, Michael. (2009). “Contrary to what marketers say Americans reject tailored advertising and three activities that enable it,” Available at:

Turow, Joseph. (2007). “Cracking the Consumer Code: Advertisers, Anxiety, and Surveillance in the Digital Age,” in The New Politics of Surveillance and Visibility. Toronto: University of Toronto Press

References for Traffic Analysis, Privacy, and Social Media

the-droids-youre-searching-forIn my presentation at Social Media Camp Victoria (abstract available!), I drew heavily from various academic literatures and public sources. Given the nature of talks, it’s nearly impossible to cite as you’re talking without entirely disrupting the flow of the presentation. This post is an attempted end-run/compromise to that problem: you get references and (what was, I hope) a presentation that flowed nicely!

There is a full list of references below, as well as a downloadable version of my keynote presentation (sorry powerpoint users!). As you’ll see, some references are behind closed academic paywalls: this really, really, really sucks, and is an endemic problem plaguing academia. Believe me when I say that I’m as annoyed as you are that the academic publishing system locks up the research that the public is paying for (actually, I probably hate it even more than you do!), but unfortunately I can’t do much to make it more available without running afoul of copyright trolls myself. As for books that I’ve drawn from, there are links to chapter selections or book reviews where possible.

Keynote presentation [4.7MB; made in Keynote ’09]


Breyer, P. (2005). ’Telecommunications Data Retention and Human Rights: The Compatibility of Blanket Traffic Data Retention with the ECHR‘. European Law Journal 11: 365-375.

Chew, M., Balfanz, D., Laurie, B. (2008). ‘(Under)mining Privacy in Social Networks’, Proceedings of W2SP Web 20 Security and Privacy: 1-5.

Danezis, G. and Clayton, R. (2008). ‘Introducing Traffic Analysis‘, in A. Acquisti, S. Gritzalis, C. Lambrinoudakis, and S. D. C. di Vimercati (eds.). Digital Privacy: Theory, Technologies, and Practices. New York: Auerback Publications. 95-116.

Elmer, G. (2004). Profiling Machines: Mapping the Personal Information Economy. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.

Friedman, L. M. (2007). Guarding Life’s Dark Secrets: Legal and Social Controls over Reputation, Propriety, and Privacy. Stanford: Stanford University Press. [Excellent book review of text]

Gandy Jr., O. H. (2006). ‘Data Mining, Surveillance, and Discrimination in the Post-9/11 Environment‘, in K. D. Haggerty and R. V. Ericson (eds.). The New Politics of Surveillance and Visibility. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 79-110. [Early draft presented to the Political Economy Section, IAMCR, July 2002]

Kerr, I. (2002). ‘Online Service Providers, Fidelity, and the Duty of Loyalty‘, in T. Mendina and B. Rockenback (eds). Ethics and Electronic Information. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Press.

Mitrou, L. (2008). ’Communications Data Retention: A Pandora’s Box for Rights and Liberties‘, in A. Acquisti, S. Gritzalis, C. Lambrinoudakis, and S. D. C. di Vimercati (eds.). Digital Privacy: Theory, Technologies, and Practices. New York: Auerbach Publications, 409-434.

Rubinstein, I., Lee, R. D., Schwartz, P. M. (2008). ‘Data Mining and Internet Profiling: Emerging Regulatory and Technological Approaches‘. University of Chicago Law Review 75 261.

Saco, D. (1999). ‘Colonizing Cyberspace: National Security and the Internet’, in J. Weldes, M. Laffey, H. Gusterson, and R. Duvall (eds). Cultures of Insecurity: States, Communities, and the Production of Danger. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 261-292. [Selection from Google Books]

Simmons, J. L. (2009). “Buying You: The Government’s Use of Forth-Parties to Launder Data about ‘The People’,” in Columbia Business Law Review 2009/3: 950-1012.

Strandburg, K. J. (2008). ’Surveillance of Emergent Associations: Freedom of Associations in a Network Society‘, in A. Acquisti, S. Gritzalis, C. Lambrinoudakis, and S. D. C. di Vimercati (eds.). Digital Privacy: Theory, Technologies, and Practices. New York: Auerbach Publications. 435-458.

Winner, L. (1986). The Whale and the Reactor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [Book Review]

Zittrain, J. (2008). The Future of the Internet: And How to Stop It. New Haven: Yale University Press. [Book Homepage]

Forthcoming Talk at Social Media Club Vancouver

Head-On-VancouverI’ve been invited to talk to Vancouver’s vibrant Social Media Club on October 7! I’m thrilled to be presenting, and will be giving a related (though very different) talk from the one a few days earlier at Social Media Camp Victoria. Instead of making traffic analysis a focus, I’ll be speaking more broadly of what I’ll be referring to as a ‘malaise of privacy’. This general discomfort of moving around online is (I will suggest) significantly related to the opaque privacy laws and protections that supposedly secure individuals’ privacy online as contrasted against the daily reality of identity theft, data breaches, and so forth. The thrust will be to provide those in attendance with the theoretical background to develop their own ethic(s) of privacy to make legal privacy statements more accessible and understandable.

See below for the full abstract:

Supplementing Privacy Policies with a Privacy Ethic

Social media platforms are increasingly common (and often cognitively invisible) facets of Western citizens’ lives; we post photos to Facebook and Flickr, engage in conversations on Orkut and Twitter, and relax by playing games on Zynga and Blizzard infrastructures. The shift to the Internet as a platform for mass real-time socialization and service provision demands a tremendous amount of trust on the part of citizens, and research indicates that citizens are increasingly concerned about whether their trust is well placed. Analytics, behavioural advertising, identity theft, and data mismanagements strain the public’s belief that digital systems are ‘privacy neutral’ whilst remaining worried about technological determinisms purported to drive socialized infrastructures.

For this presentation, I begin by briefly reviewing the continuum of the social web, touching on the movement from Web 1.0 to 2.0, and the future as ‘Web Squared’. Next, I address the development of various data policy instruments intended to protect citizens’ privacy online and that facilitate citizens’ trust towards social media environments requiring personal information as the ‘cost of entry’. Drawing on academic and popular literature, I suggest that individuals participating in social media environments care deeply about their privacy and distrust (and dislike) the ubiquity of online surveillance, especially in the spaces they communicate and play. Daily experiences with data protection – often manifest in the form of privacy statements and policies – are seen as unapproachable, awkward, and obtuse by most social media users. Privacy statements and their oft-associated surveillance infrastructures contributes to a broader social malaise surrounding the effectiveness of formal data protection and privacy laws.

Given the presence of this malaise, and potential inability of contemporary data protection laws to secure individuals’ privacy, what can be done? I suggest that those involved in social media are well advised to develop an ethic of privacy to supplement legally required privacy statements. By adopting clear statements of ethics, supplemented with legal language and opt-in data disclosures of personal information, operators of social media environments can be part of the solution to society’s privacy malaise. Rather than outlining an ethic myself, I provide the building blocks for those attending to establish their own ethic. I do this by identifying dominant theoretical approaches to privacy: privacy as a matter of control, as an individual vs community vs hybrid issue, as an issue of knowledge and agency, and as a question of contextual data flows. With an understanding of these concepts, those attending will be well suited to supplement their privacy statements and policies with a nuanced and substantive ethics of privacy.

On a Social Networking Bill of Rights

I attended this year’s Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference and spent time in sessions on privacy in large data sets, deep packet inspection and network neutrality, the role of privacy in venture capital pitches, and what businesses are doing to secure privacy. In addition, a collection of us worked for some time to produce a rough draft of the Social Network Users’ Bill of Rights that was subsequently discussed and ratified by the conference participants. In this post, I want to speak to the motivations of the Bill of Rights, characteristics of social networking and Bill proper, a few hopeful outcomes resulting from the Bill’s instantiation and conclude by denoting a concerns around the Bill’s creation and consequent challenges for moving it forward.

First, let me speak to the motivation behind the Bill. Social networking environments are increasingly becoming the places where individuals store key information – contact information, photos, thoughts and reflections, video – and genuinely becoming integrated into the political. This integration was particularly poignantly demonstrated last year when the American State Department asked Twitter to delay upgrades that would disrupt service and stem the information flowing out of Iran following the illegitimate election of President Ahmadinejad. Social networks have already been tied into the economic and social landscapes in profound ways: we see infrastructure costs for maintaining core business functionality approaching zero and the labor that was historically required for initiating conversations and meetings, to say nothing of shared authorship, have been integrated into social networking platforms themselves. Social networking, under this rubric, extends beyond sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and encapsulate companies like Google and Yahoo!, WordPress, and Digg, and their associated product offerings. Social networking extends well beyond social media; we can turn to Mashable’s collection of twenty characteristics included in the term ‘social networking’ for guidance as to what the term captures:

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