I’ve been ridiculously busy lately, and need to quickly catch up on some recent items of note:
- Scientific American has a nice special issue dedicated to “the future of privacy.” Nothing new here for most privacy scholars, but it is a nice treatment of the issues that is approachable to those who don’t spend every breathing moment thinking about privacy and surveillance theory. (Also very good for undergraduate courses!)
- Colorado Law School professor Paul Ohm has released an important new article on “The Rise and Fall of Invasive ISP Surveillance,” where he argues that “Nothing in society poses as grave a threat to privacy as the Internet Service Provider.”
- Google released a new version of Picasa, that now includes facial recognition technology to help you identify friends and family in your pictures without requiring you to tag them by hand each time you see them. Similar to Riya, Picasa’s facial recognition technology will ask you to identify people in your pictures that you haven’t tagged yet. Once you do and start uploading more pictures, Picasa starts suggesting tags for people based on the similarity between their face in the picture and the tags you already put in place for them. (I’ll blog more about this separately soon.)
- Google also released its own Web browser, Chrome. Many saw conspiracy when Google made the (bone-headed) mistake of simply copying its standard EULA to the Chrome site, which erroneously stated that users grant “Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.” Of course, Google confirmed this was an error, and changed it. Meanwhile, others showed great concern over whether Google would be snooping on browser activity. Lauren Weinstein and Google’s own Matt Cutts helped diffuse those concerns.
- Speaking of browsers, the new version of Internet Explorer (IE8) includes an “InPrivate” mode that lets users control whether or not IE saves their browsing history, cookies, and other potentially sensitive data. This is in line with Safari’s “Private Browsing” feature, but has not avoided all criticism.
- As an iPhone user, I’ve often wondered whether the device “phones home” and what kind of usage statistics might be be shared with Apple. (Recall how the Mini-Store iTunes update from a few years ago caused a stir due the automatic transmission of users’ listening habits to Apple.) Turns out that the iPhone does take periodic screenshots of everything you do in order to make that “shrinking screen” effect work when you press the home key. While presumably that image isn’t stored or transmitted, Wired points out the larger concern: “The phone presumably deletes the image after you close the application. But anyone who understands data is aware that in most cases, deletion does not permanently remove files from a storage device.” Apple should make transparent how this works, where these images reside on the phone, and the process under which they are deleted from memory (including the cache).
- My friend and colleague Anders Albrechtslund has published an excellent article Surveillance and Ethics in Film: Rear Window and The Conversation in the Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture 15(2), pp. 129-144.
- Finally, I’m sad to hear that Sivacracy is going on indefinite hiatus. The silver lining here is that Siva is inching closer to completion of his book The Googlization of Everything.