The entirety of dialogue on the conference was successively tweeted, blogged and socially networked. The follow up was well documented online. This unique live coverage provided an inside line for those unable to attend.
Tuesday’s highlights were finding the fulcrum between the vast world of knowable information gleaned by information brokers and those who want more control over the information available about them in the digital world. How the individual could handle data brokerage firms, their form and function as private corporations when they collude with government agencies became the uncomfortable common thread and backdrop for many of the discussions during the week. Privacy standards in governance were also an issue as differing models for control were discussed in earnest when it comes to individual information. During the Privacy and Free Speech forums Yahoo! made an important comparison that Vietnam’s government, while considered 3rd world, has considerably better standards for digital privacy than Western nations. Again, the money to be made from commercial data surveillance make privacy somewhat of a granular concern, especially when it comes to medical data.
On Wednesday Medical privacy and the centralization of healthcare records and information became one of the “iceberg” issues of the CFP conference. With medical users having so little control over an insurance mandate and consequently the flows of data about them, what are some of the methods currently available to stop unwanted or unncessary data collection and dissemination of health information? As it turns out, ways to opt out of health information mandates are still part of the discussion, some provisions of anonymity in healthcare could help and audits on information requests for medical information applied by conscientious healthcare watchdogs could help save us. We also uncovered the majority of both funding and demands for healthcare centralization were initiated by the stimulus spending legislations. National healthcare policy and the issue of privacy are not going away. You may see the discussion resume comprehensively in an attempt to mitigate some unintended consequences at SPIMACS [pronounced “spy max”] conference in October 2010. http://hotsoft.carleton.ca/SPIMACS2010
PRIVACY IN US TRAVEL & TRANSPORT
Travel information and surveillance was not up for debate. International science and engineers explained to conference attendees how they will be surveilled; not whether or not they will choose to be surveilled. The government projects who purchase the road surveillance technologies were more or less resolved to inform us of what we were getting in exchange for our tax dollars. One take away from the resolution on driver surveillance is to find ways to travel which more or less subvert surveillance technologies before forms of resistance are legislated or regulated away. For instance, if you don’t believe you should have a “black box” in your car and an internal GPS system you can buy an antique car or a model which pre-dates technologies automatically sold in cars. You can purchase license plate obfuscation sprays. Strangely enough neither air transit or public transit surveillance was addressed in the conference transportation engineering line up. This did not touch dome camera surveillance in bus, trains or airports. The panel seemed focused on dominating the automobile – which is the form of transportation least in reach of government regulation, ownership and operation.
LOCATION & MOBILE PHONE SURVEILLANCE
Very good discussions took place about how citizens could respond to location surveillance and mobile phone and phone records tracking. This is one of the best reasons to attend CFP conferences. Discussions like these take place to empower citizens as consumers while maintaining a pragamatic and fair understanding of how their role fits into Big Brother’s commercial or government grid.
ACTIVISM & USER PRIVACY RIGHTS
The “100 hour candle” was lit over the course of the week for attendees to distill and refine terms of CFP’s Social Networking Bill of Rights inspired by the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s start. Read the finished product here.
Activists and advocates discussed issues critical to coalition formations, wedge issues and controverted strategy to get citizens to stay engaged in the political process. Social networks like Facebook continue to be a boon to organizers, but at what price? Information conveyed via Facebook would be considered anything but private and easily infiltrated by domestic intelligence operatives, like the FBI. Retaining your impact as an activist has always revolved around using the right tools. When a social network is no longer a friend to privacy, some activists choose alternatives opting out of compromised networks. It calls for learning a lesson in not becoming overreliant on any one social network or technology.
Once a network or group has been compromised, activists have to work very hard to both continue their work and strengthen their weaknesses. Activism panelists discussed privacy and civil liberty opportunities and advantages. One tactic was passing local ordinances and laws as a way to push back against large federal intrusions into private networks, both analog & digital.
CYBER SECURITY, ELECTIONS & PRIVACY IN GOVERNANCE
Net Neutrality sessions established that the government has the capability but never settled the legal angle or established the notion that the government has the right to control the net.
The Cyber Security discussions had airs of being more of a Public Relations show. Crowds thinned at CFP and panel discussions adopted national-to-international dialogue on Friday. Amid Cyber Security panelist speakers was a civil liberties protection officer for National Intelligence. The existence of this office might be cause for pause but also lots of questions. Who knows what kind of hells would otherwise transpire if this officer was not there? How many times a day is that office railroaded and told why security must prevail over civil liberty? Conversely, the existence of such a bureaucracy may explain or even excuse why there is such a good reason why the US government overlooks the 4th Amendment when it comes to basic common privacy.
White House Staff was in attendance for several panels discussing both operability and privacy in context of national security policy. Computing patriarchs like Whit Diffey were also present to add balance to the intelligence and public affairs weights.
Jennifer Grannick of EFF threw salt on the Cyber Security notions of America being “at war” or “losing the Cyber Security war” by defining a few simple terms in accordance with process. First – there is no “Cyber war” . Second, there are simply cyber attacks and basic computer security: encryption, best practices, audits, forensic diagnostics, and definition as needed to be applied to computer crime laws. If so – the current 70 point plan is inadequately shored up. As with any proper endeavor with the right equipment and policies vigilance could be achieveable.
One special take away moment was Christina Zaba of NO2ID speaking up after hearing that the US may be entertaining an internet identity number for all online users. NO2ID established existing dissent against this type of system based on its use in the United Kingdom. Zaba added that the main priority of the coalition government was to repeal the national identity systems set in motion under Gordon Brown.
It hearkens to Monday’s news of Senator Joe Lieberman telling everyone to “relax” while the Senate greenlights the delegation of a wartime “kill switch” to the Executive Branch. It may be worth noting, the United States is technically at war right now with both drugs and terror. The track record for private intrusions and abuses of power based on Executive Order has been consistently bad.
Given the federal government’s current tendencies to power-snatch whatever is whatever public domain, wanted or not, low voter confidences and past tendencies for electronic voting machines to be hacked – I don’t think digital voting has a snowball’s chance in Yuma midsummer to make it without paper analog technology to crutch the processes.
CFP is a very valuable conference for the comprehensive lens on digital privacy to be explored and to be responded to by government, private business, privacy advocates and the public. Who knew Microsoft would make an effort after receiving the ’04 Big Brother award to come around to digital privacy?
This conference has unlimited potential to create contact between worlds which are usually alienated from one another to share their perspectives and stories.
Watch out… CFP 2011 is headed for Washington D.C. Privacy may be the next wave of public policy to flood the furnishings.