Why data collection is leading to insecurity and privacy by design
Speakers notes from DataEthics.eu event March 2016
Some weeks ago I met Emma Holten — she is the lovely young woman who took up the data privacy agenda after being victim of revenge porn.
Emma and I discussed the difference between National Intelligence Services surveying citizens and Private companies tracking consumers — although we didn’t find a clear answer –Emma was pointing to what she called the total lack of ambitions on both the political scene and in private companies when it comes to respect and protect people’s privacy.
One thing from Emma’s personal story that sticks with me — is the matter of whether you as an individual gives consent or not to have data about you collected, shared and even sold.
Do we need privacy? — Illustration by Julie Fisher ©
Does it scare me if the National Intelligence Service does some serious surveillance — well It does if laws are not kept, but it doesn’t scare me as such, at least not the Danish one, I believe we have a solid democracy, and are sure watchdogs like Peter Kofoed and Anders Kjærulff will speak up and enlighten us when it gets a bit slippery, and at this point it is good enough for me.
But it was a bit scary to learn from Bill Beeny, former CIA agent who in the movie “A Good American” tells — that because of the metadata he collected was able to predict the Russians moving into Afghanistan, a couple of days before it happened — and as he said: “I was of by an hour…” — that is how precise metadata was in 1979.
Today private companies are tracking your behaviour…and collection all the metadata you create — it is obvious that someone is having a hunch about what you have been looking at and what you have been searching for.
One of the most visible example are the ads we all see repeatedly when browsing the web — once you looked for a new pair of shoes, you see ads for cloth and shoes everywhere.
Your behaviour becomes your own filter bubble.
And it is not only about your behaviour — Once I figure out what metadata to measure and how to decipher it I will be able to start profiling people Human Beings behaviour is so predictable and I will be able to predict not only your next step, but also people similar to you.
And I imagine that I with the help of Bill Beeny’s methods could predict when you will by shoes next time -and if it is for work use or your favourite sports activity.
And it is already here — like seen on Google recently when a guy searched for “Capsule” to look at a CRM system named capsule — Google showed him an ad from Amazon saying You bought 50 capsules for your Nespresso last time, do you want to a re-order.
In my opinion we are loosing a bit of independence by every click we make.
There also is a big lack of transparency — What do you know about the estimated 4000 more or less shady data brokers — the so called “man in the middle” companies behind the third-party cookies? collecting and selling any information about any person they profile
Like the case where Target, the US super market, predicted customers pregnancy or the one where a list of rape victims could be bought for the price of under 1 dkr pr. name… (source: worldprivacyforum)
In a recent documentary by Danish Television it was discovered that also Danish people are profiled and Danish names exists on those kind of lists.
Some say it about DataEthics, but data does not need ethics it is bits and bytes.
People need ethics — and people need privacy by design
Do you feel in control over the data collected about you? — Illustration by Julie Fisher ©
Maybe just a short while ago it was that slightly nerdy type wearing a tin-foiled hat or the activist in a not so democratic place as Europe who had reason to be paranoid.
But, when I was here at IDA the Conference in December, I talked to a guy who told me he on purpose left his phone at home every Wednesday — He said: “…then when I want to go somewhere and do not want to share it with anyone I’ll just go on a Wednesday …”
When did you last feel tracked and what are you doing to protect your privacy?
And it spooks me when my 20 year old nice comes to me with flickering eyes and asks
“Do you think Facebook can hear me” — she has been talking to a friend on her phone about her birthday coming up this Saturday, and 5 minutes after they ended the call — a message from facebook popped up “Do you want to help Carla prepare her birthday?”….
Data collection and lack of transparency creates insecurity….
I don’t exactly know when I gave consent to participate — I must admit I feel out of control from time to time, especially when I try setup my children’s device’s to have a decent level of privacy.
And I will understand if you feel you lost control over when you share data and with whom — It is rather complex and once you’re online it is hard to avoid data collection.
That’s what scares me…. the private companies tracking people — not only — but especially about my children
This is where I will like to give consent to participate
But it also why I will expect Privacy by Design to be a build into the solutions I can choose in the future.
Back to Emma speaking about ambitions….
Two main elements of using the internet is searching and browsing.
“Why not build a web search engine and a browser that controls who is tracking you and respects privacy”, Brian Rasmusson, Privacore founder
That was more or less the ambitions Brian, the Founder of Privacore had in early 2014
At Privacore we also have the ambition to be transparent — so we wrote a Privacy Promise to our users telling what principles we follow and how we handle information, the two basic principles are:
And for our services we decided not to collect user IP addresses, user agent information and data from you personal behavioural.
Besides that, we strive to work by the 7 principles of Privacy by Design.
PrivaControl is our way to control tracking — it is a plugin/extention for browsers even we are using general blocking lists we have added a level of privacy so when you are using PrivaControl all request for the list will go to our servers since we will host them
-this way your information is not revealed to different third-parties like some other common blockers.
Privafox — browsing with privacy as default
Privafox — the Browser it a bit further down the road o the development map
Our ambitions for Privafox is to build is Set-it-and-forget-it solution with a fair level of privacy by default. First step will be to deliver it for Desktop — with more platforms to come
And of course it comes bundled with PrivaControl
Findx.com is our independent and private web search engine, and our biggest project.
Recently while we were testing the front-end, I sat with my 8 year daughter — I was a bit excited to show it to her, and told her to use it for searching instead of the normal search engine
– She tried it and with no excitement at all just said “What can it do that the other ones cannot do?” …. A bit hurt I tried to tell her…
Findx does not know you! Every time you visit we will not know what you searched for earlier… it is hard to explain to a 8 year old…
To you I can say we do not collect IP addresses and we do not collect user agent information and we do not save your search history.
The biggest differentiator between other privacy centric search engines and findx.com is the index = the web search results — findx is not a meta search engine.
Meta Search engines get their search results from one or more of the big search indexes, like google, Bing, Yahoo etc… and are heavily depending on them to be in business. For instance StartPage gets their results from Google.
We do not like that kind of dependency — so we have set up a bunch of servers and are crawling the web and creating our own index, and it right now contains over 1.5 billion pages. A lot of data collected — but not personal data.
Another fact is that our services are hosted in Europe only and comply with European laws.
findx.com — the independent and private search engine from Europe
Looking at privacy as a differentiator — it might be a differentiator in it self — also for your products — but is up to you to decide how to build it by design.
In our case we believe we need to provide more than privacy to search — and one of our goals is to make search more social. –
We have ambitions to make findx a search engine powered by the algorithm we use in combination with user feedback.
If you have ideas for that — and want to join the discussion, please sign up to our community on the Privacore website.
When will findx be available:
We are planning to open findx for beta access in May, where we are aiming for a full featured search experience, meaning web search and map search, with route planning — in private…. — and also image and video search. -at that time PrivaControl will also be available for download
Update: the findx public beta is now live – everyone can now search in private.
Join privacore on www.privacore.com — Illustration Julie Fisher ©
So give it a thought…
What if you can use alternatives to the existing data collecting services, where your privacy is respected, where you can choose to give consent to the collection of your data?
With respect for people’s privacy we at Privacore have an ambition to build an alternative and bring transparency — trust and independence to the internet — and in just a few weeks I really hope you will find the time to try it out…