This week’s readings are focused on privacy issues with user-shared information – our personal data streams. We’ve been talking quite a bit lately about all the data available for mining of the internet – the extent to which is beyond our current ability to fathom. And as we were all beginning to have the urges to cover our webcams with post-it notes, here comes several articles to show that we might actually still have some control over at least some of the information we release.
This Mashable article gives some advice on how to handle a situation in which your employer asks for your Facebook password. The second article deals with the legal questions of such a request. I would follow the advice int he first one and tactfully decline access to anything other than what is publicly available. I would not surrender the passwords for my social media accounts, not because I’m trying to hide anything, but because I would put my family and friends at risk of privacy invasion, jeopardize misunderstandings of harmless posts taken out of contexts (from five years ago, nevertheless), and expose my private life that I prefer remains private.
The final paper explores the possibilities of enabling participatory privacy in a personal data stream. This paper simultaneously applauds the Code of Fair Information Practice for setting some guidelines for sharing personal data, and highlights its deficiencies. Privacy is defined as controlling the personal flow of information, but with more information available than we even know what to do with, privacy becomes a murky matter. Take mobile phones for example. The article said that mobile phones are “the most widespread, embedded surveillance system in history.” Heck, even I have glanced at my cell phone sitting beside me in the car while I belt out what I believe is the most perfect Christina Aguilera imitation in the history of the world, and wonder if “THEY” have chosen to listen in at this particular moment and are all as amazed with the perfection of the imitation as I am.
There are many fantastic positives about tracking information like geolocation with phones. If I get lost in the woods with my phone, perhaps my rescuers will be able to track me down. If I signed up to participate in PEIR (Personal Environmental Impact Report) I could discover and reduce my carbon footprint on the Earth. If I had a heart defect and my doctor could monitor my condition daily without my having to go to the office every day, that would be amazing. But misunderstanding or misjudging the risks of putting so much information out there could be detrimental to my overall personal privacy. I don’t even make my “MapMyRun” app log entries public because I don’t want to reveal my times and routes on running days to the world. (That info screams “Come attack me at this specific time at this specific place because there are few witnesses!”) This idea of a PDS with a Personal Data Vault is very appealing and shows that we’ve just tapped the surface of data security. A personal vault gets inserted between you phone and the application that collects data, becoming customized data sharing filters. This would be similar to what Chris mentions in his Week 15 blog, but without having to feel like a secret agent. With control over what you share with whom, and clear expectations on why you are sharing that information and where it’s going, you can don a co-investigator hat and work with very helpful data collection to improve many vital areas of our world, like environmental impact and medicine.
This week several people have been asking whether we’d share our FB passwords. I want to know under what specific circumstances you share personal information online? What criteria have to be met for you to feel safe enough to share private information?