Google CEO’s latest privacy statement

I was reading the web article Google CEO Schmidt: No Anonymity Is The Future Of Web this morning where Eric Schmidt is quoted as saying:

Privacy is incredibly important. Privacy is not the same thing as anonymity. It’s very important that Google and everyone else respects people’s privacy. People have a right to privacy; it’s natural; it’s normal. It’s the right way to do things. But if you are trying to commit a terrible, evil crime, it’s not obvious that you should be able to do so with complete anonymity. There are no systems in our society which allow you to do that. Judges insist on unmasking who the perpetrator was. So absolute anonymity could lead to some very difficult decisions for our governments and our society as a whole.

Some espouse that the loss of anonymity will endanger privacy. I can see both sides of the argument and again, as I stated in my post on March 2nd – Do I want to be anonymous? Yes! Do I want to be authenticated? Yes! that it is all about balance. Can I, or should I, be anonymous when I want to perform on-line banking? No. Is it anyone’s business what I look at, or when, or why, when I surf the net? No.

So again, it’s not either-or, but a balance. Sometimes anonymity is desired, and sometime non-repudiation.

U.S. House overwhelmingly passes cybersecurity research bill

The Cyber Security Research and Development Act of 2009, which passed by a vote of 422 to 5, authorizes the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a cybersecurity education program that can help consumers, businesses, and government workers keep their computers secure.

“This bill will help improve the security of cyberspace by ensuring federal investments in cybersecurity are better focused, more effective, and that research into innovative, transformative security technologies is fully supported,” said Symantec CTO Mark Bregman. “HR 4061 represents a major step forward towards defining a clear research agenda that is necessary to stimulate investment in both the private and academic worlds, resulting in the creation of jobs in a badly understaffed industry.”

Article here

Search Giants Google & Microsoft Bing Compete on Privacy

In August 2008, Google cut the retention period of user search data to 9 months, down from 18 months. After 9 months it no longer retains the IP addresses that can be used to link a user search to an individual.

Recently Microsoft, not to be outdone, reduced the retention period of its users search data to a mere 6 months. Microsoft has accused Google of retaining a portion of the user’s IP address after it’s self-imposed 9 month retention period, while Microsoft claims it will remove the entire IP address.

“Quality of search won’t be reduced but privacy will be enhanced”
Brendon Lynch, Microsoft’s director of privacy policy

Microsoft’s actions appear to be in response to European Union data protection officials request that leading search engine makers respond to their privacy concerns by the end of this month over retaining IP address data.

We can only hope that increased competition will lead to improved privacy and data security by industry leaders, setting a course for others to follow.

Article here

Shedding Your Identity in the Digital Age

is the title of a new article in the December 2009 issue of Wired Magazine. For one month, Evan Ratliff shed his digital identity and tried to disappear. Wired offered $5000 to the first person who could locate him, say the password “fluke” and take his picture within the one month contest period. The premise of the contest was simple: “how hard is it to vanish in the digital age? The article chronicles his adventures on the run, and the phenomena it created on Twitter. Using the hashtag #vanish, contest participants were “tweeting” up to 600 tweets a day as they shared clues and personal information about Evan Ratliff (such as his middle name, a common question of private investigators).

I recommended you pick up the print edition of the article while still available, as it is better than the online version. Otherwise, check out the online version here.

Data Privacy Day 2010 is just around the corner

Data Privacy Day 2010 is occurring on January 28th. Data Privacy Day is an annual international celebration to raise awareness and generate discussion about information privacy. In 2009, both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives recognized January 28th as National Data Privacy Day.

Over the past few years, privacy professionals, corporations, government officials and representatives, academics, and students in the United States, Canada, and 27 European countries have participated in a wide variety of privacy-focused events and educational initiatives in honor of Data Privacy Day. They have conducted discussions, examined materials and explored technologies in an effort to bring information privacy into our daily thoughts, conversations and actions.

“Despite all the benefits of new and innovative technologies, there are doubts and worries that persist about just how much personal information — our digital identity — is collected, stored, used, and shared to power these convenient and pervasive services.”

Richard Purcell, executive director of The Privacy Projects (www.theprivacyprojects.org), organizing sponsor of Data Privacy Day.

Data Privacy Day has also provided an opportunity to promote teen education and awareness about privacy challenges when using mobile devices, social networking sites and other online services.

Everyone is welcome to participate by sponsoring events, contributing writings and other educational resources, joining activities, and taking actions designed to raise privacy awareness.

More information can be found on the event website at: dataprivacyday2010.org.

U.S. House Passes Data Breach Bill

Last week, U.S. House of Representatives legislators passed the Data Accountability and Trust Act (DATA), which requires security policies for consumer information, regulates the information broker industry, and establishes a national breach notification law. The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate, which is also considering a similar measure.

Article here