The Privacy Slope

Slippery

I read with interest Ronald Bailey’s book review of Privacy by Garet Keizer in the Wall Street Journal ( 16 August 2012) .

In a nutshell, privacy is founded in the Constitution’s 4th Amendment: “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

I would define privacy as the freedom–to think, to feel, and to act as ourselves (within ethical boundaries) without fear of intrusion, revelation, or reprisal.

In other words, it should only be our business who we love, what we are interested or believe in, who we vote for, what we choose to do with our lives, and more.

I think in grade school, the children generally sum it up well when they playfully chant: “Mind your own BI,” where BI is used for business (or biziness). 🙂

According to Keizer, the danger to privacy come into play from two main sources:- Commerce–who want to sell you something and

– Government–that needs to surveil for security and law enforcement purposes

After 9/11, their was a perceived need for greater surveillance to enhance homeland security, and with advances in technology and communications (smartphones, Internet, social media, etc.), the ability to snoop became far easier.

In 2002, the DoD program for Total Information Awareness (TIA) was an attempt to know everything (i.e. total) about those who would do us harm, but fears about this capability being used against the innocent, quickly required a rethinking or perhaps, just a rebranding.

Some say that the new NSA mega data center in Utah is the fulfillment of the TIA dream–according to the Washington Post, already in 2010 NSA intercepted and stored “1.7 billion emails, phone calls, and other types of communications.” Further, law enforcement demanded records from cellphone carriers on 1.3 million subscribers “including text messages and caller locations” over just the last year’s time.

Keizer cautions that “the ultimate check on government as a whole is its inabilityto know everything about those it governs”–i.e. without the people holding the cards, there is the risk of spiraling into a Big Brother totalitarian society–goodbye democracy!

I think Keizer perhaps oversells the fear of government surveillance and underemphasizes intrusion from business–his thinking is that “If consumers are annoyed with a merchant’s monitoring, they can buy elsewhere.”

But what Keizer misses is that industry as a whole has moved toward the use of technology–from club cards and promotions to use of Internet cookies, RFID, and more–to systematically track consumers and their buying behavior and that information is readily captured, packaged, used, and sold for marketing and sales–as well as to the government!

As a common practice now, where is a consumer to go that will shield them from hungry business looking to capture market share and earn nice profits?

At the same time, while government surveillance can certainly be misused and abused with terrible consequences for individuals society—there are potentially a lot of people looking over the shoulder of those carrying out public programs–and this “sunlight”–where and when it shines–can help to prevent bad things happening. The problem is that the system is not perfect, and there are always those program people who act of out of bounds and those watchers who are ineffective and/or dishonest.

Overall, it’s a zero sum game, where those that hype up security and capitalism, can tramp down on privacy, and vice versa.

In totality, we can never just assume everything will be okay when it comes to privacy and how information is used, but we have to be active citizens helping ensure that right things are done, the right way.

For regular, hardworking, decent citizens, there is a definite need to safeguard privacy–and technology can be helpful here with anonymizers, encryptors, and other shielding tools

For the bad guys, I would imagine, no question, that the government will continue to develop the means to thwart their secrecy and planning to inflict harm on the American people.

For business, it’s okay to capture consumer information and sell, but pour it on to thick and people will think twice about your company’s ethics and brand–and even a lawsuit may be in the making.

Yes, privacy is a slippery slope, and not only can a person’s self be revealed or used inappropriately, but the voyeur can get burned too if they overdo it.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Raising The Bar On Cybersecurity

Good video by the The Washington Post (2 June 2012) on the importance and challenges of cybersecurity.

There are 12 billion devices on the Internet today and this is projected to soar to 50 billion in the next decade.

Cybersecurity is paramount to protecting the vast amounts of critical infrastructure connected to the Internet.

There is a lot riding over the Internet–power, transportation, finance, commerce, defense, and more–and the vulnerabilities inherent in this is huge!

Some notable quotes from the video:

– “Spying, intrusions, and attacks on government and corporate networks occur every hour of every day.”

– “Some sort of cyberwar is generally considered an inevitability.”

– “Cyberwar although a scary terms–I think it is as scary as it sounds.”

– “Right now the bar is so low, it doesn’t take a government, it doesn’t take organized crime to exploit this stuff–that’s what’s dangerous!”

We all have to do our part to raise the bar on cybersecurity–and let’s do it–now, now, now.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to University of Maryland Press Releases)

Images, Alive And Profitable

Luminate

“There are nearly 4 trillion images on the Internet and 200 million new ones being added each day,” according to Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Luminate.

Luminate (formerly Pixazza) has the vision of making all those images interactive through image recognition algorithms and human-assisted crowdsourcing to identify objects and tag the images with content.

They “transform static images into interactive content,” according to the Luminate website.

The way it works:

1) Icon–look for the Luminate icon image in the lower left corner of the image that means the image in interactive.

2) Mouse–mouse over the image to choose from the interactive image apps.

3) Click–click on the images in the photo to shop and buy it (“Get The Look”), share information (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, email), or navigate (click on contextual hyperlinks from Wikipedia and other sources).

According to Forbes (27 July 2011), Luminate already “has more than 4,000 publishers, 150 million unique visitors per month, and more than 20 million products catalogued.”

The image-tagging platform provides context and information for consumers and revenue generating opportunities for producers–so it is a win-win for everyone in the marketplace!

By connecting end-user Internet images on the front-end with advertisers and commerce on the back-end, Luminate has found a way to integrate web-surfers and industry–no longer are advertisements on the web disconnected as pop-ups, banners, or lists from the Internet content itself.

Right now, there are apps for annotations, advertisements, commerce, and social media. Luminate plans to open up development to others to create their own for things such as apps for donations for disaster relief images or mapping and travel apps for images of places.

Luminate, as a photo-tagging and application service, is advancing our experience with the Internet by creating a richer experience, where a photo is not just a photo, but rather a potential gateway into everything in the photo itself.

In my view, this is a positive step toward a vision of a fully augmented reality, where we have a truly information-rich “tagged environment”, where everything around us–that we see and experience–is identified and analyzed, and sourced, and where the images of the world are alive no matter how or from what angle we look at them.

Lastly, my gut tells me that Google is heavily salivating over where this company is going and future developments in this field.

(Source Photo: here)

>Architecting a Balance

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As a child, we learn from our parents, teachers, and mentors, that too much of even a good thing is bad for you: be it sweets or hard work—in fact, just about anything taken to an extreme is deadly.

The lesson of finding a balance in life has been captured in religious and philosophical teaching about practicing a middle of the road or golden path approach in life. In architecture as well, developing a strong viable architecture is also premised on balancing conflicting demands and finding that delicate balance.

In simple terms, architecting a balance shows up in having to manage scarce IT resources. So that while on one hand, we may like to have the latest and greatest technologies to give us every edge, we have to balance to promise of those technologies with the cost involved. We do not have endlessly deep pockets.

Similarly, while on one hand, we it would be wonderfully customer-centric to provide each and every one of our customers the customized business processes and technology solution that they want, prefer, or are simply most familiar or comfortable using; on the other hand, we must balance the innovativeness and agility that our customers demand with the need to standard around enterprise and common solutions, which provide a more structured, deliberate, and lower cost base on which to service the enterprise.

As we know from childhood, it is not easy to find the “right” balance. That next bite of cotton candy tastes great going down and we won’t feel the stomachache till later that evening.

National Defense Magazine, November 2007, has an article about architecting a balance in the Coast Guard mission of maritime security, titled “License to Boat?”

The threats from small boating vessels are threefold:

  1. Smuggling—“the use of a boat to smuggle people or weapons of mass destruction into the United States.”
  2. Waterborne improvised explosive device (IED)—“that a boat will be used as a weapon itself by a suicide bomber” (such as the attack in 2000 on the USS Cole). “Imagine…the consequences of waterborne IEDs against passenger ships, against tankers, against port facilities themselves.”
  3. Weapons’ platform—“boat used as a platform to launch a weapon, such as a short-range ballistic missle,” says Dana Goward, Director of MDA, at the U.S. Coast Guard

Despite these serious security threats, the article discusses the challenges of architecting a balance between increased security/maritime domain awareness (such as through requiring of boating licenses and/or automated identification systems for the more than 17 million small vessels that operate in U.S. waterways) and the desire to “ensure that future regulations don’t compromise boaters’ way of life or disrupt the flow of commerce.”

Of course, there is more than one way to skin a cat, so if security options don’t include boating licenses, Goward states, “the answer could be something as simple as a combination of rules, extra patrols, and increased monitoring on the waterways.”

When it comes to balancing competing interests, nothing is really simple. National Defense Magazine reports that in terms of maritime security, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on “Maritime Security: Potential Terrorist Attacks and Protection Priorities,” states that “terrorists are more likely to use small boats for waterborne attacks because they ‘satisfy the overwhelming terrorist requirements for simplicity,” Now, we need to continue architecting solutions that meet these security threats head-on, but at the same time preserve freedoms, our way of life, and support international commerce.

Creating balance between alternate views/needs is one of the biggest challenges, but also has the potential for some of the greatest benefits, because by striking a balance, we have the potential to satisfy the greatest number of stakeholders and optimize our ability to meet conflicting requirements. It’s easy to (as the Nike slogan says) “just do it,” but it’s hard to do it and not mess up something else in the process. For example, it’s relatively easy to do security, if you aren’t concerned with the affect on quality of life, commerce, and so on. However, this is not realistic.

Like all things in life, finding the right balance is an art and a science, and requires ongoing course corrections.