I have noticed a particular dynamic to privacy disputes. Typically they aren’t generated by outside investigation and revelation, but by official announcement by government or corporations. Â A new database is contemplated, or a new mode of personal identification is proposed, or a new service is launched. Â Typically, these announcements raise questions about the intended and the unintended consequences for the processing of personal information. Â Typically the details provided are neither complete nor entirelyÂ transparent. Â The lack of openness generates suspicions about the ways that personal information might be captured, used and disclosed given certain technical assumptions, and certain institutional motivations. Â The disputes then generate a process of accusation and denial, and often leave us no wiser about the actual risks to privacy. Â The debates tend to be episodic, and often fade from attention as the next privacy scandal of the week excites the attention of the privacy advocates and of the media. Â I wrote about these dynamics in The Privacy Advocates — which is being published in paperback format this fall.
Over the years, I have contributed to these debates. Â Journalists call me up, and ask for my instant reaction on the privacy risks inherent in a particular practice. Â The latest example is that of Facebook Places.
This new application is an excellent example of this framing of privacy issues. Â And at root, whether one believes that Facebook Places poses a risk to individualsâ€™ ability to control the publication of where they are at any one time, really comes down to one of trust.
I will continue to speak in the media on issues of current controversy, but I also hope to use my new blog to offer some more sustained reflections on the privacy controversies of the day, in Canada and internationally.
Thanks for reading,