thoughts and observations of a privacy, security and internet researcher, activist, and policy advisor

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What have we learned on Identity?

Kaliya "Identity Woman" Hamlin and Johannes Ernst are doing a survey on the questions we don't have to ask anymore in the digital identity field:

What are the questions we are no longer asking ourselves.

  • maybe we figured out the answer,
  • maybe we figured out we couldn’t answer it,
  • maybe we figured out it was a question we asked to soon and will surface again.
  • would anybody think this is useful? [question in the past, not any more]

What are the questions we are asking ourselves now?

  • How do identity providers make money? [question now]
  • What will be be thinking about 6-18 months from now?
  • How to aggregate claims from multiple identity sources? [question 12 months from now]

Monday, November 26, 2007

Facebook as a Government

Fred Stutzman has a very thoughtful post on the recent "innovations" at Facebook and what they do to the relationship between the brand and the users:
Facebook's brand represents a place, that place being a virtual community made up of our friends, family and contacts. To put it more bluntly, at the macro level, we're brand agnostic when it comes to social network sites - we go where our friends are. Over the years, we've reified the commodity nature of these networks, migrating every few years. (...)

So if we really imagine Facebook as a collection of our friends, what does the brand entity of Facebook represent? The brand entity of Facebook is governmental; the only time one interacts with Facebook as entity is when they are being controlled or punished. Facebook as brand represents surveillance and domination.
Read the rest here. And read his other pieces on Facebook's "Beacon":
Users will be forced to realize that their Facebook identity "follows" them through the web. As a result, Facebook users will be forced to reevaluate all of their activities on the social web. (...) Terrell Russell summed it up nicely: The social web now has landmines. When we browse sites, we're forced to wonder "Will this show up in Facebook."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Privacy and Internet Governance in Rio

I have arrived in Rio de Janeiro last night to attend the second Internet Governance Forum, a massive multi-stakeholder global policy dialogue organized by the United Nations. I am mainly doing field research for a study on NGO participation I am about to finish this year. But I am also involved in a couple of events here which I am very much looking forward to:
And all this (and more) will happen in just one week. I am afraid I won't have any time to go to Copacabana or Ipanema at all, though this is my first time in Rio. But the conference will be fascinating enough, as there are so many smart people from all parts of the world and with so many different backgrounds. Even last night, after an 18-hour trip and pretty tired, I got stuck in an inspiring discussion with a Hungarian hacker about how to develop a materialist critique of human rights discourses (privacy etc.) under conditions of social networking technologies. Wow.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Keysigning Parties with Barbie Dolls

This is too ridiculous:

Sally brings her Barbie Girl over to her friend Tiffany's house, and sets it in Tiffany's docking station -- which is plugged into a USB port on Tiffany's PC. Mattel's (Windows only) software apparently reads some sort of globally unique identifier embedded in Sally's Barbie Girl, and authenticates Sally as one of Tiffany's Best Friends. Now when Sally gets home, the two can talk in Secret B Chat. (If Sally's parents can't afford the gadget, then she has no business calling herself Tiffany's best friend.)

And what is the added value of doing this? Believe it or not: The Barbie owners can then exclusively use Mattel's chat system Secret B that limits their expression to a white list of approved words. Oh yes, and as all these dolls seem to have a globally unique identifyer, Mattel can probably track who is chatting, when, and with whom (the authentication software is proprietary and runs only on Windows).

Who on earth still believes that todays' kids don't know how to use standard IM and social networking software?