Tag Archive for 'Privacy'

Pioneers and such

The keywords Facebook and Twitter in the short movie abstract caught my attention and made me pick “We Live In Public” as one film I wanted to see out of the great program at the IFF Boston last weekend.

The documentary is a portrait about Josh Harris, a visionary maniac so to say (cf. luvvy) and possibly

the greatest internet pioneer you’ve never heard of.

Having made millions of dollars in the dot.com bubble, he created and funded eccentric art projects like Quiet: We Live in Public, a colony with 100 people living under 24-hour surveillance in a bunker in New York City.

People want 15 min of fame, every day.

The master tapes filmed in the bunker must be a paradise for psychologists and sociologists and probably deserve a place in a university library. The bunker is a very brutal, exaggerated and compressed picture of the effects of sacrificing privacy and sharing your life with literally everybody. That part of the documentary raises the question for me why do we want to share our personal information on commercial platforms like Facebook or MySpace. What do we get in return? Targeted advertising and hundreds of connections to people you barely know, is that it?

I especially like the quote

Everything is free except the video we capture of you. That we own.

of Josh Harris. A principle of the bunker in 1999, but I guess it still can be easily applied to many Web 2.0 business models nowadays.

“We Live In Public” is a truly fascinating documentary and clearly one of my movie recommendations for 2009. Go watch it!


Better than social networks like XING or Facebook for looking up a person: 123people not only includes ordinary web search results, photos and videos, but as well email addresses, post addresses and phone numbers (in Austria so far).

Even if I’m aware that there is a lot personal data spread over the internet, I feel very uncomfortable when it’s joined and displayed on one single page. The biggest privacy threat, in the private and public sector, is matching personal data out of several, originally seperated, data bases. Luckily public administration suffers from bureaucracy which adds some friction between public agencies. Actually it adds more friction than our legislation does at the moment. On the private side, the friction is lesser. Especially on the internet it seems easy to trace persons, as services like 123people demonstrate.

However, it just proves the “feeling” I’m having that it’s time to withdraw some personal information from the internet. Sooner or later it’ll be abused.

Btw, maybe 123people should change their tagline to something like

123people, the stalker’s tool of choice.

Stuck on Facebook

How cool is that?

Facebook asks you to import contact data from almost any popular email provider. As for the other direction, getting your contact data out of Facebook again, they aren’t quite as liberal as tech geek blogging celebrity Robert Scoble found out:

Why do this?

I wanted to get all my contacts into my Microsoft Outlook address book and hook them up with the Plaxo system, which 1,800 of my friends are already on.

It’s ironic that you can import your Gmail address book into Facebook but you can’t export back out.

2008 will bring us a lot more superb stories about social networks I guess. Monetizing the social graph has just begun. Personally I’ve observed myself withdraw information and increase privacy settings on some services. Until it becomes clearer what social network marketers have in mind, I’ll be more careful with personal information.


A movie shot with surveillance cameras. Creepy!

Good to know that public surveillance is handled responsible and carefully:

If a hot girl walked into the mall, they tracked her from camera to camera to camera, all day long. Let’s say the camera caught under her skirt as the wind blew, they’d take that footage and post it on YouTube. They showed me their highlight reel!

More on Wired. [via 3th]

History repeating

Though I’m not quite sure if “Metternich 2.0″ is the most appropriate title for this online demo, I believe something has to be done to raise public awareness about that issue.

On December 6th our government sneaked a security law amendment into the parliament. Unlike the German government, they were clever enough to dump democracy, do it secretly in order to avoid any public discussion and finally passed the amendments on the very same day, on 6th December around midnight (that already says something), without preceding parliamentary discussions.

The amendment radically enhances police surveillance rights and allows far-reaching monitoring of citizens without a control entity behind. I guess surveillance state is the term used in certain literature.

Members of the green party set up a parliamentary petition against the law (and governmental behavior). You can sign it online on their website.

Helge is using his wiki to support the petition and is providing tools – you might have noticed the page peel in the upper right corner here – and information for an online demo. [via helge.at]

Update: the Austrian parliament in action, by Maschek (in German language):

Erase your trace

A good new reason to give Ask another try as search bar default: unlike most other search engines, Ask released a tool, called AskEraser, which allows users to delete their search histories entirely from Ask servers.

User privacy as PR campaign: I’m not sure if this will help Ask a lot since the average search engine user is not aware or simply does not care about left online traces.

However, in terms of user interface and smart features Ask is already my favorite search engine. The problem is that Google still returns better search results and eventually that’s what counts in search engine business. Otherwise the Ask logo would already have been set as default on my upper right corner too… [via NYT]

Lessons learned today

  1. Google killed the hyperlink by introducing PageRank. The idea behind PageRank (the more links point to a site, the higher the site’s relevance) makes some of us be suspicious before clicking a link. Why is this link there? Does it provide further information for me or is it just a backlink to increase the target site’s PageRank? Am I’m going to be cheated? Before Google came, hyperlinks provided information and content, not backlinks. Yes, once upon a time, content was the scale for relevance.
  2. Internet is fun. Social software is even more fun and questioning male ranking concepts is allowed. People, don’t take it too serious!
  3. The last word on blog-usability isn’t spoken yet. The constantly changing chronological site structure is irritating. And that’s only the beginning.
  4. In Austrian rural areas you can do solid business while enjoying a relaxing life.
  5. None of the BarCamp alpha geeks today had an iPhone. The iPhone is an illusion.
  6. Currently there is no way to make easy money with blogs.
  7. I support the Free Burma Action because I felt the need to do something. I’m a lucky person, I was born into a world where previous generations already had fought for my rights. I’m deeply impressed by the people in Burma, who stand peacefully up in front of armed soldiers, demanding nothing more than democracy. Something I experienced my entire life as given. Nobody can tell if this action will help, but it’s still better than do nothing and wait what happens next. Thanks to all the valuable input at the Free Burma Session!
  8. Who’s a blogger, who’s not. Or, does anybody really care about that term?
  9. Metablogs are out, real life stories are in. Even in the german speaking blogoshpere.
  10. Note to myself: adjust Facebook application’s privacy settings immediately and change email address annually!

User-created content in Google Maps

Since a few weeks Google includes user generated content in Google Maps search results. Basically it’s a good idea and useful data because some places or place-names aren’t collected by commercial mapping companies, who provide services like Google Maps with data. Jesuitenwiese at Prater for instance, a nice picnic spot in Vienna, now shows up in Google Maps search results because it got mapped by a random user on some site on the internet.

However, I’m not quite sure of how many people are really aware of that marked spots in their Google “My Maps” are available to a broader public audience through Google’s search functionality.

A search for picnic in Vienna for example links to the wedding route of a Google user (identified by a real name), or a picnic a woman (again, a real name is showing up) went to last Sunday.

To make sure private things remain private, well, at least not shown as Google search result, the flag “unlisted” in Google “My Maps” has to be set. Regarding KML or GeoRSS you can tell Googlebot how to handle the content by editing either robots.txt or sitemap.xml.

Big brother is watching

When I got my new MacBook, one thing that took me quite some time to get used to, was the built-in iSight. It’s kind of strange knowing a camera is constantly directed towards yourself. You feel watched any time you sit in front of the computer. Even if it’s turned off, meaning the little green light is off, but who knows if the camera is off too. However, after some time I got used it and didn’t think about it anymore.

Until today.

This morning I came over this little Quicktime iSight hack.

If you own an iSight and it’s connected to your Mac, it’s being turned on and you can watch yourself in realtime by just entering the website.

Isn’t that scary?

Actually not. So far this hack only works local. The video feed goes from your iSight over the Quicktime plugin into your browser. Nobody else can watch, stream or record you.

Polite thief

polite thiefChristmas is near and even thieves are becoming friendlier these days:

Someone opened the letter from my bank, but was kind enough, since it didn’t contain any PIN or TAN, to put everything carefully back in my mailbox. Thanks!