Confessions of a Privacy Junkie (and a list of my favorite privacy resources!)
The holiday season is upon us and we are being inundated (happily) with best and worst lists as well as predictions for 2012. Terence and I will reveal our own lists soon but I thought that I might take this post to chat about our book (Privacy and Big Data) and the evolution of a privacy junkie (me). But before I begin, a note to our regular readers: I know that I promised a part 2 in my series on McKinsey and location tracking and it’s coming… in early 2012 (yes, I have taken poetic license with scheduled dates!).
As you all are far more aware than you might want to be due to our incessant plugging, we (Terence and Mary) wrote a book on Privacy and Big Data this year. I have always been concerned about privacy issues and thought that I was well informed on the subject so why not co-author the book? How much work would it really entail? After all, this is a topic that Terence and I talk (and argue) about pretty much every day so all we needed to do was collate our combined knowledge and voilà, a book is born! Six months later, after reading through thousands and thousands of pages of research, books, articles, and posts on the topic of privacy, I can safely say that I am now a privacy junkie of the highest order (I suspect Terence is as well but I digress).
What defines a privacy junkie? I am so glad you asked:
- First and foremost, it is someone who religiously combs through privacy websites, media outlets, blogs, LinkedIn groups, and the twittersphere for all items related to privacy. This includes privacy and data security regulations in the U.S. and around the world, COPA, SOPA and the protection of IP, Internet censorship, studies on linkage, leakage, and consumer fears around privacy, the rising use of cyber surveillance tools by governments and agencies around the world, the list goes on and on (just read our many blog posts tagged privacy or data security).
- Secondly, it is someone who can put a specific privacy event/violation in context with other overarching issues. For example, the recent Carrier IQ controversy (it was shown that the Carrier IQ software, found on about 150 million cellphones, tracked user information and sent it to the carriers without consumers’ knowledge) is not just an example of a possible privacy issue but one of third party privacy responsibilities. In other words, if your carrier outsources the collection of your data for whatever purpose should you be notified and is your carrier ensuring that third parties are adhering to its privacy and data retention policies (yes, it is that complicated!)?
- Finally, a privacy junkie is someone who tiptoes through the digital world: privacy policies are read (I hate them but I read them and if they are really convoluted, it’s a sure sign that the site has a careless attitude about the collection, use, and protection of my data), cool apps that require access to twitter and other social media accounts are rigorously monitored (I rarely do this as I am very suspicious of how my data is being used), passwords are strong and changed often, the cellphone and other personal devices are given the same respect as one’s wallet and credit cards, personal data aggregation sites (like Spokeo) are monitored (I like to see what information they have about me), URLs in email from unknown and sometimes known (the companies or services you have an online account with) parties are never clicked on as phishing is on the rise, and the cookies (in all variations) placed on my computer are regularly reviewed.
Yep, it’s a lot of work and yes, it might seem like the privacy junkie is a mite paranoid about the digital world. But here’s my motto: knowledge is power. The more you know about a particular subject the more you are able to make informed decisions and take action. Getting grounded on the topic of privacy may take a bit of time (that’s why we wrote the book—to save you some time!) but it’s worth the investment. Here’s the thing: our expectation of privacy is constantly shifting as our digital world innovates and regulations will always lag. It would be so nice if some entity would just take care of all of this for us but that’s a pipe dream: we all need to be vigilant about the collection and use of our personal information and raise our voices via twitter, blogs, the media, etc., when we don’t like what’s going on. So, for the foreseeable future I will remain a privacy junkie. And just in case some of you want to join me, here are some of my favorite privacy resources (no, this is not my list of favorite things):
- Favorite Privacy Organizations. The Electronic Privacy Organization (EPIC), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU) for U.S. coverage and Privacy International for worldwide coverage. Hint: I follow their twitter feeds which are @EPICprivacy, @EFF, @ACLU, and @privacyint respectively.
- Favorite Professional Organization. Hands down, for the latest news on privacy regulations/violations around the world, the International Association of Privacy Professionals is a fantastic resource. (Full disclosure: I am a member.) The IAPP puts out a privacy email newsletter every day and it’s free—to subscribe, just go to their home page and click on the link—and you can also join their group on LinkedIn or Facebook.
- Best Coverage of U.S. Privacy Regulations. Okay, you can read the somewhat comprehensible regulations, findings, and rulings from various government agencies and courts yourself or you can simply refer to the Information Law Group’s blog (I suggest you do the latter). You can subscribe to their blog (go to the home page) and follow them on Twitter @InfoLawGroup.
- Favorite Non-Technical Privacy Media Outlets. I like The Guardian’s technology section (@guardiantech) for a comprehensive discussion of privacy issues from both sides of the pond and the Wall Street Journal’s What They Know series (by the way, they have a great infographic about the 50 most popular sites and the amount of tracking that goes on their home page—check it out).
- Best List of Personal Information Aggregation Sites and How to Opt-out. Thanks to reddit and LawyerCT for providing a comprehensive list of the personal information sites with specific instructions on how to opt-out of each of them.
- Favorite Online Guide to Privacy Tools. There are lots and lots of tools that can help you manage some aspect of privacy and this list (courtesy of EPIC) provides links to all of them.
- Best Privacy Conference. The Privacy Identity Innovation conferences are always illuminating (and not just because Terence and I have participated at some of them) and you can count on privacy experts from across the spectrum to shine a light on the privacy debate from all sides. Next one up is in my neck of the woods: Seattle, WA. @TechPolicy is the twitter handle and is a favorite of mine to follow.
- Other Favorite Twitter Handles. Okay, I’ve referenced a number of twitter handles in my favorites but here’s a few more that I follow: @betsymas covers Google policy and privacy, @zephoria covers privacy youth issues, and @jim_adler covers privacy from the CPO’s point of view.
Yes, I do follow a lot of folks and organizations but I find that that I can usually count on this list to keep me informed about all things “private.” And I would be remiss if I did not mention our very own privacy and big data resource page which we update regularly—it contains a complete list of all our posts on privacy, data security, etc., as well as FAQs and links to rebroadcasts of sessions, podcasts, and webcasts that we that we have participated in. Of course there are many others and if you think that I’ve forgotten a great resource, drop me a line!
Now, for a teaser: My last post for 2011 is about my favorite device (singular). It has changed my world and I blame Terence for it as it was a gift from him. And no, it’s not an iPad.