Monday, 5 January 2015

*rolls sleeves up*

OK, these are some of the things that happened over Christmas in the world of privacy and security in no particular order, chronological or otherwise.  And some things that happened before Christmas that I didn’t get round to.  I call it Procrastination Monday. May contain teasers:

Know your cell phone rights: The link is US-centric but much of it applies in other places too, such as here in the UK.  I’m working on a similar guide about the legals and technicals of taking mobile phones to protests. You’ll see it here first when it’s finished.

We’re used to the idea that hackers might steal our data if we let other people store it.  It’s a real danger but not the only nor the most dangerous danger. The companies that store our data can and often do look at it for reasons.  We need to get better at knowing what’s happening to our data, but that’s not in the interests of the people we let store it.

Police filming encounters with the public: Sounds like a no-brainer: if police have body cams that record their interactions with the public, there’ll be no more she-said she-said, right?  There’ll be no more abuses of power because it’ll all be on camera….right?  It’s not that simple, for several reasons. For one, it’s all too easy for batteries to run out, technical faults to occur and cameras to be damaged during altercations.  It wouldn’t be difficult to disappear footage.  For another, body cams aren’t very useful at recording close-up scuffles.And what’s to stop police officers shouting things like “stop resisting arrest” while they’re beating suspects?  Suspects could muddy those waters, too, but I’m more concerned about abuses of power.  There are ways to improve the reliability of cop-cam footage that have to do with the conflicting motives of the players involved, maybe I’ll write about them sometime.

We’re often told that security and especially privacy decisions are about assessing the trades-off between security/privacy and convenience. I don’t know why we’re told this, however, because it’s obviously wrong.  I’ll definitely write something about this very soon.  Here’s something that looks like a classic trade-off between convenience (or service) and privacy but, as the article suggests, it’s a bit more complicated than that. It’s complicated for the usual reason that there’s an imbalance of power between corporations and individuals as well as a clear conflict of interest.  This limits our options as individuals. We can only begin to address these issues when we take action as a group, using market, political and social pressure to demand new options.

Blackphone announces privacy-oriented app store: I’ll be watching with interest how this works out. I’m optimistic in the abstract. Hopefully we’ll learn something about how to run privacy-oriented app stores because when I think about how I’d do it I get two different kinds of mental alarm bell. The first says RUN THE FUCK AWAY, but I don’t like listening to that sort of alarm. The other says that there’s lots of consultancy to be done here. I like that kind of alarm better.

IBM’s banking software demands the right to spy on you if it really wants to, Let’s be clear: “In other words, IBM is allowed to gank any file on your computer, if it thinks it looks suspicious, and if that file turns out to be sensitive, confidential, or compromising, tough shit.” – Cory Doctorow.

OK, first privacy-burst of the new year over. There’ll probably be more before I’m finished.

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