It’s Time to Rewrite the Internet to Give Us Better Privacy, and Security


Larry Lessig in The Daily Beast: “Almost 15 years ago, as I was just finishing a book about the relationship between the Net (we called it “cyberspace” then) and civil liberties, a few ideas seemed so obvious as to be banal: First, life would move to the Net. Second, the Net would change as it did so. Gone would be simple privacy, the relatively anonymous default infrastructure for unmonitored communication; in its place would be a perpetually monitored, perfectly traceable system supporting both commerce and the government. That, at least, was the future that then seemed most likely, as business raced to make commerce possible and government scrambled to protect us (or our kids) from pornographers, and then pirates, and now terrorists.

But another future was also possible, and this was my third, and only important point: Recognizing these obvious trends, we just might get smart about how code (my shorthand for the technology of the Internet) regulates us, and just possibly might begin thinking smartly about how we could embed in that code the protections that the Constitution guarantees us. Because—and here was the punchline, the single slogan that all 724 people who read that book remember—code is law. And if code is law, then we need to be as smart about how code regulates us as we are about how the law does so….
But what astonishes me is that today, more than a decade into the 21st century, the world has remained mostly oblivious to these obvious points about the relationship between law and code….
the fact is that there is technology that could be deployed that would give many the confidence that none of us now have. “Trust us” does not compute. But trust and verify, with high-quality encryption, could. And there are companies, such as Palantir, developing technologies that could give us, and more importantly, reviewing courts, a very high level of confidence that data collected or surveilled was not collected or used in an improper way. Think of it as a massive audit log, recording how and who used what data for what purpose. We could code the Net in a string of obvious ways to give us even better privacy, while also enabling better security.

The Future of Internet Governance: 90 Places to Start


Council on Foreign Relations Blog: “The open, global Internet, which has created untold wealth and empowered billions of individuals, is in jeopardy. Around the world, “nations are reasserting sovereignty and territorializing cyberspace” to better control the political, economic, social activities of their citizens, and the content they can access. These top-down efforts undermine the Internet’s existing decentralized, multi-stakeholder system of governance and threaten its fragmentation into multiple national intranets. To preserve an open system that reflects its interests and values while remaining both secure and resilient, the United States must unite a coalition of like-minded states committed to free expression and free markets and prepared to embrace new strategies to combat cyber crime and rules to govern cyber warfare.
These are the core messages of the just-released CFR report, Defending an Open, Global, Resilient, and Secure Internet. The product of a high-level task force, chaired by former Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte and former IBM Chairman Samuel J. Palmisano, the report opens by describing the epochal transformation the Internet has wrought on societies and economies worldwide—particularly in the developing world.
Facilitating this unprecedented connectivity has been a framework based not on governmental (or intergovernmental) fiat but on “self-regulation, private sector leadership, and a bottom-up policy process.” By leaving regulation in the hands of technical experts, private sector actors, civil society groups, and end-users, the pioneers of the early Internet ensured that it would “reflect a broad range of perspectives and keep pace with rapidly changing technology.” They also ensured that rights of free expression and privacy would emerge as dominant norms….
Given current trends, can the United States possibly preserve the open global internet? Yes, but the first step is getting its own house in order. Distressingly, the U.S. government lacks a coherent strategic vision, an adequate policy coordination framework, and the requisite legislative authorities to develop and implement a national cyberspace policy, undercutting its global leadership.
Beyond this general guidance, the CFR task force offers some ninety (!) recommendations for U.S. policymakers.”

The Dictatorship of Data


Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger in MIT Technology Review: “Big data is poised to transform society, from how we diagnose illness to how we educate children, even making it possible for a car to drive itself. Information is emerging as a new economic input, a vital resource. Companies, governments, and even individuals will be measuring and optimizing everything possible.
But there is a dark side. Big data erodes privacy. And when it is used to make predictions about what we are likely to do but haven’t yet done, it threatens freedom as well. Yet big data also exacerbates a very old problem: relying on the numbers when they are far more fallible than we think. Nothing underscores the consequences of data analysis gone awry more than the story of Robert McNamara.”

"A bite of me"


Federico Zannier @ Kickstarter: “I’ve data mined myself. I’ve violated my own privacy. Now I am selling it all. But how much am I worth?

I spend hours every day surfing the internet. Meanwhile, companies like Facebook and Google have been using my online information (the websites I visit, the friends I have, the videos I watch) for their own benefit.
In 2012, advertising revenue in the United States was around $30 billion. That same year, I made exactly $0 from my own data. But what if I tracked everything myself? Could I at least make a couple bucks back?
I started looking at the terms of service for the websites I often use. In their privacy policies, I have found sentences like this: “You grant a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).” I’ve basically agreed to give away a lifelong, international, sub-licensable right to use my personal data….
Check out myprivacy.info to see some of the visualizations I’ve made.
http://myprivacy.info”

If My Data Is an Open Book, Why Can’t I Read It?


Natasha Singer in the New York Times: “Never mind all the hoopla about the presumed benefits of an “open data” society. In our day-to-day lives, many of us are being kept in the data dark.

“The fact that I am producing data and companies are collecting it to monetize it, if I can’t get a copy myself, I do consider it unfair,” says Latanya Sweeney, the director of the Data Privacy Lab at Harvard, where she is a professor of government and technology….

In fact, a few companies are challenging the norm of corporate data hoarding by actually sharing some information with the customers who generate it — and offering tools to put it to use. It’s a small but provocative trend in the United States, where only a handful of industries, like health care and credit, are required by federal law to provide people with access to their records.

Last year, San Diego Gas and Electric, a utility, introduced an online energy management program in which customers can view their electricity use in monthly, daily or hourly increments. There is even a practical benefit: customers can earn credits by reducing energy consumption during peak hours….

Digital Strategy: Delivering Better Results for the Public


The White House Blog: “Today marks one year since we released the Digital Government Strategy (PDF/ HTML5), as part of the President’s directive to build a 21st Century Government that delivers better services to the American people.
The Strategy is built on the proposition that all Americans should be able to access information from their Government anywhere, anytime, and on any device; that open government data – data that are publicly accessible in easy-to-use formats – can fuel innovation and economic growth; and that technology can make government more transparent, more efficient, and more effective.
A year later, there’s a lot to be proud of:
Information Centric
In twelve months, the Federal Government has significantly shifted how it thinks about digital information – treating data as a valuable national asset that should be open and available to the public, to entrepreneurs, and others, instead of keeping it trapped in government systems. …
Shared Platform
The Federal Government and the American people cannot afford to have each agency build isolated and duplicative technology solutions. Instead, we must use modern platforms for digital services that can be shared across agencies….
Customer-Centric
Citizens shouldn’t have to struggle to access the information they need. To ensure that the American people can easily find government services, we implemented a government-wide Digital Analytics Program across all Federal websites….
Security and Privacy
Throughout all of these efforts, maintaining cyber security and protecting privacy have been paramount….
In the end, the digital strategy is all about connecting people to government resources in useful ways. And by “connecting” we mean a two-way street….
Learn more at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/digitalgov/strategy-milestones and http://www.whitehouse.gov/digitalgov/deliverables.”

Economic effects of open data policy still 'anecdotal'


Adam Mazmanian in FCW:’ A year after the launch of the government’s digital strategy, there’s no official tally of the economic activity generated by the release of government datasets for use in commercial applications.
“We have anecdotal examples, but nothing official yet,” said federal CIO Steven VanRoekel in an invitation-only meeting with reporters at the FOSE conference on May 15. “It’s an area where we have an opportunity to start to talk about this, because it’s starting to tick up a bit, and the numbers are looking pretty good.” (Related story: APIs help agencies say yes)…
The Obama administration is banking on an explosion in the use of federal datasets for commercial and government applications alike. Last week’s executive order and accompanying directive from the Office of Management and Budget tasks agencies with making open and machine readable data the new default setting for government information.
VanRoekel said that the merits of the open data standard don’t necessarily need to be justified by economic activity….
The executive order also spells out privacy concerns arising from the so-called “mosaic effect,’ by which information from disparate datasets can be overlaid to decipher personally identifiable information.”

New Open Data Executive Order and Policy


The White House: “The Obama Administration today took groundbreaking new steps to make information generated and stored by the Federal Government more open and accessible to innovators and the public, to fuel entrepreneurship and economic growth while increasing government transparency and efficiency.
Today’s actions—including an Executive Order signed by the President and an Open Data Policy released by the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy—declare that information is a valuable national asset whose value is multiplied when it is made easily accessible to the public.  The Executive Order requires that, going forward, data generated by the government be made available in open, machine-readable formats, while appropriately safeguarding privacy, confidentiality, and security.
The move will make troves of previously inaccessible or unmanageable data easily available to entrepreneurs, researchers, and others who can use those files to generate new products and services, build businesses, and create jobs….
Along with the Executive Order and Open Data Policy, the Administration announced a series of complementary actions:
• A new Data.Gov.  In the months ahead, Data.gov, the powerful central hub for open government data, will launch new services that include improved visualization, mapping tools, better context to help locate and understand these data, and robust Application Programming Interface (API) access for developers.
• New open source tools to make data more open and accessible.  The US Chief Information Officer and the US Chief Technology Officer are releasing free, open source tools on Github, a site that allows communities of developers to collaboratively develop solutions.  This effort, known as Project Open Data, can accelerate the adoption of open data practices by providing plug-and-play tools and best practices to help agencies improve the management and release of open data.  For example, one tool released today automatically converts simple spreadsheets and databases into APIs for easier consumption by developers.  Anyone, from government agencies to private citizens to local governments and for-profit companies, can freely use and adapt these tools starting immediately.
• Building a 21st century digital government.  As part of the Administration’s Digital Government Strategy and Open Data Initiatives in health, energy, education, public safety, finance, and global development, agencies have been working to unlock data from the vaults of government, while continuing to protect privacy and national security.  Newly available or improved data sets from these initiatives will be released today and over the coming weeks as part of the one year anniversary of the Digital Government Strategy.
• Continued engagement with entrepreneurs and innovators to leverage government data.  The Administration has convened and will continue to bring together companies, organizations, and civil society for a variety of summits to highlight how these innovators use open data to positively impact the public and address important national challenges.  In June, Federal agencies will participate in the fourth annual Health Datapalooza, hosted by the nonprofit Health Data Consortium, which will bring together more than 1,800 entrepreneurs, innovators, clinicians, patient advocates, and policymakers for information sessions, presentations, and “code-a-thons” focused on how the power of data can be harnessed to help save lives and improve healthcare for all Americans.
For more information on open data highlights across government visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/library/docsreports”

Personal Information Is the Currency of the 21st Century


Tom Cochran (CTO at Atlantic Media) in All Things D: “The currency of the 21st century digital economy is your personal information. It has no transaction costs and does not decrease in value when the supply increases. Contrary to the laws of economics, it may even increase in value with greater supply. The more information you provide to companies, the more value they can extract from it….
Conversely, we tend to ignore this process because the most magnificent, technologically advanced and socially connected digital city is being built from it.
You are living in this growing digital city, and I’m guessing that you really like it here. Unfortunately, you can’t live in this city for free. Your rent is due in the form of your personal information, and you have to accept a certain loss of your privacy….
As a society, we need to define the rules under which our personal information can be mined. Our collective unease is largely the result of not having clear parameters to create an equilibrium between privacy and personalization.
These parameters will help shift our focus from the negatives to the positives, because in return for your personal information, you realize a net benefit with tremendous value.”

Is Privacy Algorithmically Impossible?


MIT Technology Reviewwhat.is_.personal.data2x519: “In 1995, the European Union introduced privacy legislation that defined “personal data” as any information that could identify a person, directly or indirectly. The legislators were apparently thinking of things like documents with an identification number, and they wanted them protected just as if they carried your name.
Today, that definition encompasses far more information than those European legislators could ever have imagined—easily more than all the bits and bytes in the entire world when they wrote their law 18 years ago.
Here’s what happened. First, the amount of data created each year has grown exponentially (see figure)…
Much of this data is invisible to people and seems impersonal. But it’s not. What modern data science is finding is that nearly any type of data can be used, much like a fingerprint, to identify the person who created it: your choice of movies on Netflix, the location signals emitted by your cell phone, even your pattern of walking as recorded by a surveillance camera. In effect, the more data there is, the less any of it can be said to be private. We are coming to the point that if the commercial incentives to mine the data are in place, anonymity of any kind may be “algorithmically impossible,” says Princeton University computer scientist Arvind Narayanan.”