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Wireless device can monitor patients

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 05:12 PM // March 31, 2005 // Surveillance and social sorting

Nordic telecommunications operator TeliaSonera said Wednesday it is launching a new product that lets doctors monitor their patients through a wireless device.

The new system, called BodyKom, connects wirelessly to sensors on the patient. If dangerous changes are detected in the patient's body, the hospital or health care services are automatically alerted over a secure mobile network connection.

The unit receiving the alarm will also be informed of the geographic position of the patient through the use of GPS technology.

Click here for the USA Today article.

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Softening Semantics

posted by:Marty // 07:50 PM // March 30, 2005 // Core Concepts: language and labels

“Language is a virus”, William S. Burroughs

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is taking a page from a long history of the Military’s softening of language. Wired has published this article describing the spin that’s been done to RFID tags and their upcoming use in U.S. Passports.

Conspiracy theorists and civil libertarians, fear not. The U.S. government will not use radio-frequency identification tags in the passports it issues to millions of Americans in the coming years.
Instead, the government will use "contactless chips."
The distinction is part of an effort by the Department of Homeland Security and one of its RFID suppliers, Philips Semiconductors, to brand RFID tags in identification documents as "proximity chips," "contactless chips" or "contactless integrated circuits" -- anything but "RFID."

See the article here http://www.wired.com/news/privacy/0,1848,67025,00.html

From my perspective, language and culture have been fused into a symbiotic relationship. North American culture is very much a military culture. The Military, as the trigger of the government, is a big user of euphemistic language. The practice of using euphemisms has been parachuted into the public domain; the epitome of which is political correctness. Military language has been pressed upon North America thanks to Hollywood’s idolization of the Military. Hollywood has taken this ideal, Saving Private Ryan-like, image and sexed up in movies like The Rock. The byproduct of Hollywood and the culture industry putting this iconography into the public is that certain elements are picked up by popular culture. They become carried by a society to the point where they become ubiquitous in its language and symbols.

While this may not be an intentional effort on the Military’s part, they do get something out of it. By having citizens use the words, metaphors, expressions, acronyms and slang of the rank and file, it puts the public more at ease to the Military, and now in a post 9-11 Homeland Security reality this will further extend into the 'home'. Subconsciously they become a step closer to a military mindset, absorbing words. Words become “images of words repeated in the mind and not of the image of the thing itself”*. The semantics become softcore.



*“We must find out what words are and how they function. They become images when written down, but images of words repeated in the mind and not of the image of the thing itself."
- W.S. Burroughs

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The Power of Privacy to Obscure Equality: Abortion Rights Under Attack (again)

posted by:Daphne Gilbert // 11:50 PM // March 29, 2005 // ID TRAIL MIX

Daphne Gilbert

Client privacy in medical records came under attack recently in the latest of the wearying and seemingly inexhaustible anti-choice tactics designed to intimidate women exercising their constitutional right to abortion. The Kansas anti-choice Attorney General, Phill Kline, demanded last October that abortion clinics turn over the complete medical records of nearly ninety women and girls. Kline contends that he needs the material for an investigation into underage sex and illegal late-term abortions. The subpoenas, issued as part of a “secret” investigation, surfaced after two clinics fought the order in court. On October 21st of last year a district court judge ruled that Kline could have the files. The clinics have appealed and the details of the case were uncovered this month by the Wichita Eagle newspaper. The appeal is pending.

The clinics are fighting the order as a violation of client privacy, arguing that Kline has demanded unedited medical records for women who sought abortions at least 22 weeks into their pregnancies as well as those for girls fifteen and younger who sought abortions. The initial court decision places a gag order on doctors, prohibiting them from contacting the women to warn them of the investigation. The records sought include the patient’s name, medical history, details of her sex life, birth control practices and psychological profile. Kline’s position is that he needs the records to investigate illegal practices—both the provision of abortions to women in more advanced states of pregnancy and underage sex. The clinics offered to meet his objectives by providing the records with some key information, including names, edited out. Kline refused. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri President and CEO Peter Brownlie argues: “…it's simply wrong to expect any doctor to turn over the medical records of dozens of patients based on the hunch — or the hope — of the attorney general that he may find evidence of crimes.”

This is not the first time governments in the United States have attempted to secure access to private medical records on abortion. Last year, Planned Parenthood successfully blocked U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's attempt to seize nine hundred confidential medical records from Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country. In Iowa two years ago, Planned Parenthood defeated a similar attempt to allow government invasion of confidential medical records. Just last week, Planned Parenthood sued the state of Indiana to stop the seizure of medical records there, saying investigators were on a “fishing expedition” possibly to identify the partners of sexually active 12- and 13-year-olds. None of the records requested in Indiana involved abortions specifically, but the state did order a review of all medical records in ninety Planned Parenthood clinics, ostensibly in response to a complaint about unreported child sexual abuse.

It seems obvious that the Kansas investigation constitutes, at the least, a violation of client-doctor privacy. However, in a rather bizarre turn of logic, Kline uses the secrecy of the investigation as a comfort to women who fear that the confidentiality of their abortion records has been breached: “Our investigation has been going on for a year and it's been secret until the clinics actually sought to open it up before the Kansas Supreme Court,'' Kline said. “So it's impossible for me to have the motivation of frightening women when I intended this entire investigation to remain secret.” On his webpage, Kline calls the clinics’ allegations “unfounded and superfluous”, and he admonishes, “The constitution does not protect child rapists nor does it allow a violation of late term abortion laws by the clinics.” While he acknowledges the attempted seizure of records, he insists that the women themselves are not subject to any investigation nor any “invasion of privacy”.

Kline has been roundly criticized by newspaper editorials across the United States, as Ashcroft was when he attempted this trick (click here for links to assorted editorials). All of the criticism focuses on the privacy rights, and in particular, the privacy expectations, attached to medical records. While clearly most commentators seem aware that abortion and pregnancy records contain particularly sensitive information, there is a way to read the criticism as founded in an outrage over government access to any private medical record, and not for what Kline’s investigation truly is: an attack on the constitutionally-protected right of women to secure abortions. There is no doubt that what Kline is trying to do violates privacy, despite his rationalizations. There is also no doubt that part of any argument in support of abortion rights must include reference to privacy: a woman’s right to make choices about her body in private consultation with those she trusts; and her right to have an abortion without state judgment or surveillance. However, in my view, consistent attacks to abortion rights over the past twenty years demonstrate that the debate needs to move beyond privacy to a focus on equality rights. A new rubric is necessary to combat the sometimes sophisticated, or often dubious (as in Kansas) ways that abortion rights are undermined.

A constitutional right to abortion exists in both the United States and Canada, though it is grounded in somewhat different language. In the United States, the Supreme Court considered a constitutional right to privacy in Roe v. Wade and found: "This view of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." In Canada, the Supreme Court in R. v. Morgentaler, framed abortion rights under section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and held that procedural restrictions on the availability of abortion violated a women’s right to security of the person. Wilson J. in a concurring judgment, tackled the more difficult issue of whether a woman has a constitutional right to abortion and concluded that both the section 7 rights of liberty and security apply to protect women from being the “passive recipient of a decision made by others as to whether her body is to be used to nurture a new life.” Privacy considerations are not an explicit factor in the Canadian approach to abortion rights, but it is possible to read concerns over bodily integrity as implicating a right to personal privacy in how one’s body is treated. Neither American nor Canadian courts treats abortion as a woman’s equality right.

I think that it is precisely because of the way that abortion rights are framed in the United States (and to a certain extent in Canada), that seemingly improbable stunts like the Kansas Attorney General’s are contemplated. Viewing the right to abortion as part of a right to privacy gives credence to Kline’s response that he has legitimate reason to trump privacy with the state’s criminal law power. He argues that he has reason to suspect illegalities and therefore, justification for “limiting” privacy rights in favour of a “protective” law and order agenda. His language is all about reasonable limits to privacy and not about the overriding interest women have in abortion rights. Of course women care that their medical records are kept private. That concern is not really what is at issue for opponents to Kline’s investigation. Women see this as an attack on their right to have an abortion, quite apart and separate from any rights that clients have to record confidentiality. Since abortion rights are exercised only by women, any infringement is an equality issue: limiting abortion rights limits life options for women. Men do not face any comparable limitations. Abortion rights are not gender neutral, a fact which is obscured when the issue is framed as “privacy” (or as “bodily integrity” in Canada). Privacy does not capture the way that women who seek abortions feel about what they are doing.

In this respect, the Morgentaler decision in Canada offers some useful conceptual constructs: exercising abortion rights is about personal autonomy; denying abortion rights is using women as a “means to an end” (as Wilson J. describes). That is certainly the experience of pregnancy, also a condition that is not adequately described by the privacy rubric. Part of the problem with a constitutional right to privacy is that it always exists on a spectrum. The state is always able to argue that there are situations where privacy is justifiably violated, times when privacy is in fact dangerous or harmful, and, as in Kline’s strategy, occasions where the state can claim it is protecting privacy (as in a “secret” investigation) with a hidden agenda that is anything but privacy-enhancing. Equality as a concept and a constitutional right, does not exist on a continuum. We do not speak of people who are more or less deserving of equality rights or more crassly, of individuals who are more or less equal. At least in theory, equality is an ideal to which all individuals are entitled and a reality to which governments (and societies) should aspire.

While it is true that both the American and Canadian constitutional frameworks allow equality rights to be compromised, the justifications offered are quite different then in the privacy context. Privacy rights can be limited when the greater state good demands knowledge and access. Equality rights are limited when the greater state good allows for disparate classifications. In my view, it is much harder to imagine denying abortion rights as an equality right, for on what ground can a state argue that when providing medical services, it is justified in exerting control over women’s bodies and lives that it does not exert over men? Abortion regulations engage state machinery in the most intimate of a woman’s decisions. Regulations determine when, where and how a woman may have an abortion. Abortion regulations are akin to the criminal law power in terms of the influence they exert over an individual’s life. Yet, pregnant women are not criminals. It is only through abortion regulations that the state exercises such power over the lives of its citizens—and these laws only affect women.

Equality rights are fought on the battleground of power. Advantage is weighed against claims of disadvantage, stereotypes are balanced against lived experiences—these are claims for access to the power held by the status quo. Abortion rights are equality claims in part because they too are all about power: a woman’s power to control her body and her destiny, and an Attorney-General’s power to destroy the confidence of an entire gender in a medical system that purports to be gender-neutral. Kline is attempting an underhanded power grab in Kansas, designed to defeat a woman’s access to constitutionally-protected abortion services. It is an attack on women, not just privacy rights and, contrary to Kline’s bluster, it is all about equal rights.

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Michigan may require on-line dating checks

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 01:07 PM // // Surveillance and social sorting

Politicians in Michigan are considering legislation that would require an Internet dating company serving residents to disclose on its website whether it has conducted criminal background checks on users, based solely on the names provided.

Backers say just posting the background-check disclosure would go a long way toward boosting awareness of the possible dangers of meeting people on-line. But critics — including most on-line sites — say any feeling of security would be deceptive because there is no way to ensure people give their real names.

Can and should the government regulate the Internet?

Click here for the Globe and Mail article.

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Amazon seeks to know you better than you know yourself

posted by:Dina Mashayekhi // 08:49 AM // // Surveillance and social sorting

On-line retailer compiling customer profiles to help it market products

SEATTLE — Amazon.com Inc. has one potentially big advantage over its rival on-line retailers: It knows things about you that you may not know yourself.While plenty of companies have detailed systems for tracking customer habits, critics and boosters alike say Amazon is the trailblazer, having collected information longer and used it more actively. It even received a patent recently on technology aimed at tracking information about the people for whom its customers buy gifts.

Amazon sees such data gathering as the best way to keep customers happy and loyal, a relationship-building technique that analysts consider potentially crucial to beating other on-line competitors.

"In general, we collect as much information as possible such that we can provide [customers] with the best feedback," said Werner Vogels, Amazon's chief technology officer.

But some privacy advocates believe Amazon is getting dangerously close to becoming Big Brother with your credit card number.

"They are constantly finding new ways to exploit personal information," said Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an Amazon nemesis since 2000 after the company changed its privacy policy to allow sharing of personal information with companies it buys or partners with.

For years, Amazon has collected detailed information about what its customers buy, considered buying, browsed for but never bought, recommended to others or even wished someone would buy them.

It has built ever-more sophisticated tools to recommend more purchases, direct your searches toward products it thinks you're most likely to want, or even stop the forgetful among us from buying the same book we purchased five years ago.

For example, a customer who buys the movie Lost In Translation might also be prodded to buy 21 Grams or Kill Bill -- Vol. 1 because others have made similar purchases. And customers who searched several times for a Laurie R. King mystery novel might find a book by her the next time they visit Amazon's home page.

More recently, the Seattle-based virtual retailer has launched a Web search engine, called A9, that can remember everything you've ever searched for -- and the site reserves the right to share that information with its retailing arm.

Amazon also funds a website called 43 Things. It seeks to link people with similar goals, such as getting out of debt.

Technology that can accurately anticipate a customer's greatest desires is going to be crucial in the growing competition with Internet-based upstarts and traditional retailers moving on-line, said analyst David Garrity with Caris and Co.

"One would argue that this is the basis on which a great relationship with a customer was founded," Mr. Garrity said. "If only our significant others were like this."

But Amazon must build that relationship without alienating the customer. As customer tracking gets more detailed, Mr. Garrity said Amazon and other companies should start asking customers for permission to gather certain information.

To some privacy experts, Amazon has already crossed the line.

Most recently, Amazon tangled with privacy advocates over a patent on technology that aims to track a shopper's gift-giving habits, including the recipient's age and preferences.

Continued at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20050328.gtramazon28/BNStory/Technology/

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DNA - Distributed Networking Attack - and Encryption

posted by:Alison Gardner Biggs // 11:48 PM // March 28, 2005 // Digital Identity Management

The U.S. Secret Service is employing a new technique to break encryption on seized hardware. "DNA" links together 4,000 computers which are configured to try different password combinations against a series of encryption keys. Critical to their success is the "human factor" - that most users do not follow recommended advice to pick a strong, alphanumeric or random password. Combining the new computing techniques and information gathered on suspects, encryption is much simpler to break.

Of interest in the story also is just how easy your passwords may be to break: between 40 and 50 percent of the time investigators can crack an encryption key by creating word lists from content at sites listed in the suspect's Internet browser log or Web site bookmarks.

The full story can be found here .

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Spiritual mobiles

posted by:Chris Young // 02:02 PM // March 24, 2005 // TechLife

The Economist has a story in their latest technology quarterly looking at how people around the world are integrating mobile phones into their traditional popular beliefs and customs. The article stresses that people's propensity to react this way stems in large part from mobile phones' particularly personal quality. "Mobile phones are a uniquely personal form of technology, thanks in large part to their mobility."

This can be taken as an indication of how readily ever-more personal types of technology will be accepted and used, including networked implants and highly personalized PDAs (of which mobile phones can be considered an early instance).

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Voyeurism in the Age of Surveillance

posted by:Jason Young // 11:50 PM // March 22, 2005 // ID TRAIL MIX

Like other nations, Canada has moved to adopt criminal sanctions for electronic voyeurism, a social problem that has become acute with the availability of cheap and inobtrusive surveillance technologies. The legislative efforts are welcome and yet I cannot help but wonder if we are missing the forest for the trees.

When I was in my early twenties, I moved to Nanaimo to study nursing. For two of those years, off an on, I rented a room from the Walloons, Ernest and Kay and their daughter and son. The Walloons always treated me with respect and I was included in nearly all family events in the years I was around them.
One evening, near the end of June, 1997, Ernest's son, Steve, called my attention to the mirror in the bathroom. He pointed out a scratched piece of glass at the top – a black area of approximately 1 cm by 1 cm. Steve told me to take a closer look and so we both took turns standing on the counter viewing what appeared to be a small black lens behind the mirror. I called Kay in and her reaction upon seeing the lens was, "I hope my husband isn't taping people!" We then briefly discussed the possibility of it being a humidistat, but since it was sealed behind the mirror, this didn't seem like a viable explanation. I assumed it had some kind of useful but harmless function and I completely dismissed the thought of Ernest doing something harmful to others.
I was away most of July on holidays, but upon my return I discussed my observations of the mirror with my boyfriend. He and I inspected the mirror and surrounding area more closely and saw that on the wall behind the mirror, a piece of drywall had been cut out and replaced. In the ceiling above, I saw wires that looked like computer wire or cable vision wire proceed from the wall and travel across the ceiling then down the wall and into the back of a cupboard. My boyfriend forced open the cupboard, which was locked, and we found inside a VCR, video screen, and seven video tapes.
When I viewed the tapes I found, to my horror, that they contained recordings of myself and others dressing and undressing in my bedroom and attending to personal toilet in the bathroom. Although the tape was heavily edited, it was obvious that the footage spanned the entire period of time that I had lived at the Walloons' house. I was so horrified, disgusted and embarrassed that I could not bear to go through all the tapes.
One of the videotapes showed me in the bathroom removing a tampon. I cried when I saw this the first time, and it still makes me cry. Knowing that Ernest watched me do this is humiliating. This is something that I never, never would share with anyone. No one can know how badly this makes one feel. Knowing that he watched it more than once and saved it on an edited tape is even more embarrassing, if that were possible. To me, Ernest's choosing to retain that image, among others, means that he planned to continue to view it. Just the thought of him watching me remove a tampon makes me feel sick to my stomach.
On August 15, 1997, I delivered the seven videotapes to Corporal Bate of the Nanaimo RCMP and told him of the circumstances of how they had come into my possession and of my suspicions as to their maker. Corporal Bates advised me that there is no criminal charge appropriate to this kind of activity and that not only could he not return the tapes to me, but that the only option open to him was to return the tapes to Ernest.

In response to incidents much like this true story and calls from the Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Justice, the federal government introduced Bill C-20 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, on December 5, 2002. The purpose of the Act was to, inter alia, create a new offence of voyeurism by mechanical or electronic means. It was designed to address the growing problem created by the availability of cheap, miniature, and often wireless digital cameras that are frequently used to surreptitiously record people - primarily women - in places and at times they may otherwise have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Bill C-20 died on the Order Paper in November 2003 when Parliament prorogued, but was re-introduced on February 12, 2004 as Bill C-12 and was passed by Parliament on May 12, 2004. However, Bill C-12 suffered the same fate in the Senate as had its predecessor when Parliament dissolved later that month. It has been reintroduced in the current Parliament as Bill C-2.

This trilogy of bills seeks to provide relief for victims of voyeurism in an age of surveillance. Like its predecessors, Bill C-2 would amend the Criminal Code by adding the offence of surreptitiously observing, by mechanical or electronic means, whether recorded or not, a person who is in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy. In order to trigger the offence, one of the following three situations must occur. First, it would be illegal to observe, photograph or record an individual if the purpose of this act was sexual, even if the person observed is fully clothed. Second, it would be a crime to observe, photograph or record someone when they are in a place – like a bathroom or bedroom – where he or she can reasonably be expected to be nude or to expose his or her genitals or anal region, or her breasts, or to be engaged in "explicit sexual activity". When a person is being observed in such a location, he or she need not be undressed or engaged in sex. Third, it would be illegal to observe, photograph or record an individual when the person is nude, or engaged in explicit sexual activity, or exposing his or her genital organs or anal region, or her breasts and the purpose of the watching, photographing or recording is to catch the person undressed or engaged in sex.

Lawmakers have had some difficulty shepherding the bills through Parliament, but it is the unrelated child pornography provisions of the omnibus that have stalled its passage. Reportedly, the s. 162 amendment has all-party support – an important consideration in a minority Parliament – and yet it is not without its critics. Professor David Paciocco of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law argues that the provision, as worded, is too broad and could, for example, land paparazzi and their publishers in prison for invading a subject's privacy. In a country not known for worshiping at the altar of celebrity, the public may not have much sympathy for a poor paparazzo who finds himself on the receiving end, but the imprecision of the section could lead to bizarre and unintended consequences for other individuals as well.

First, the actual voyeurism offence casts a net broad enough to catch more than Peeping Toms and paparazzi. Consider, for a moment, the facts in the recent Supreme Court case of R. v. Clark. The appellant, Mr. Clark, had been convicted at trial of wilfully performing an indecent act in a public place in the presence of one or more persons. Specifically, he had been accused of masturbating near the uncovered window of his illuminated living room at night, where he had been observed by his telescope-toting neighbours standing some 90 to 150 feet distant in their darkened bedroom.

Mr. Clark was ultimately exonerated by the Supreme Court on the grounds that the meaning of "public place" should be interpreted in a manner consistent with physical as opposed to visual access. Writing for the majority, Fish J. found that Mr. Clark's living room could not be a place "to which the public [had] access as of right or by invitation, express or implied".

Given that Mr. Clark's living room was not a public place, but rather a private place and presumably a place in which he held a reasonable expectation of privacy, it would seem that Mr. Clark's neighbours could then be charged under the proposed s. 162. After all, Mr. Clark was nude, engaged in a sexual act, and his neighbours admitted to not only watching him, but trying to record his activity with a camcorder, albeit if only to turn that information over to the police.

Second, while it is true that the s. 162 amendment contemplates a "public good" exception in cases where "the act [of voyeurism] serves the public good", that act is not defined, raising questions about how privacy and freedom of expression might fare one against the other. Regardless, there is something quite perverse in any exception to an anti-voyeurism provision that would legitimate spying on your neighbours.

Third, the proposed amendment would establish criminal liability for knowingly possessing an illegally obtained voyeuristic recording for the purpose of printing, publishing, distributing, circulating or selling it or making it available, but notably the motive of the accused would be irrelevant. The individual who downloaded voyeuristic pornography from the Internet by way of a peer-to-peer client which either by default or by design allowed sharing of the file with other peers, could be found guilty under this provision and sentenced to a term of up to ten years, potentially twice as long as any individual who engaged in the voyeurism in the first instance.

In last week's ID Trail Mix, Pippa Lawson reported on the Department of Justice's current round of consultations on "lawful access". As part of those consultations the Department revealed that it intends to modernize language in the Criminal Code, including possibly by redrafting s. 487.01, to make it an offence to make a visual recording of a private activity, maliciously or for gain and without the knowledge of the person carrying out the activity. "Private activity" in this case would mean any activity that is carried out in circumstances in which there exists a reasonable expectation of privacy for a person in regard of his or her movements or image. The offence would apply to the execution of surveillance by law enforcement, would be indictable and those found guilty would be liable, as under the proposed s. 162, to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years.

The market has failed and likely will continue to fail to address the enabling technologies of voyeurism and the facts with which I began this post poignantly illustrate the individual consequences of this behaviour; the victim writes:

As a result of the videotaping, I no longer believe there is such a thing as a private moment. While in any bathroom or bedroom, I always find myself looking for cameras or places where they might be hidden, even though that seems irrational. Even after I assure myself there is no camera in the room, I consider that my actions are, nonetheless, controlled, as if I am being watched, and I know that is irrational as well, but I cannot help myself…. Alone, behind closed doors, where I believe that I should feel the safest, is where I feel most vulnerable.

In the circumstances, the spirit of these legal proposals is a welcome one for privacy and appropriate. And yet, I cannot help but wonder whether we are missing the forest for the trees. The tension between technology, rights and social norms evident in the attempts to deal with the problem of voyeurism belies a much larger one. As a society, we attempt to mitigate the individual harms of prurience while ignoring, even mainstreaming, the social ones. We celebrate Pam and Paris' home sex videos and raise each up as a star. We break all Internet traffic reports to download the Starr Report. And year after year, we continue to tune in to Cops, Big Brother and Cheaters. The list is long.

Privacy is a mutable value and can mean many different things. It can represent distinct legal interests as well as broader social ones. Our respect and disdain for privacy – our own and that of others – alters the nature of our relationships to one another and also the very fabric of the community. Legal sanctions for voyeurism seek to mitigate the personal harms and protect individual interests, and to some degree they will do so, but they are ill-suited to address the social harms or protect the social value of privacy.

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Online Chatter, Apple Goes to Court

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 05:31 PM // March 21, 2005 // Digital Democracy: law, policy and politics

The NY Times reports that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has chosen to sue several websites that traffic in Apple news in an effort to determine if his employees are leaking product information.

A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge ruled earlier this month that three operators of independent Web sites devoted to publishing information about Apple must divulge their confidential sources to the company.

Apple said that it was seeking the source of information it claims is protected under trade secret law. That ruling is being appealed by EFF.

In a separate case, Apple charged Nicholas M. Ciarelli, the Harvard freshman who operates the Web site Think Secret, with illegally attempting to induce Apple employees to violate their confidentiality agreements with the company.

Click here for the article.

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Kaiser adds to its lawsuit against blogger

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 08:30 AM // March 19, 2005 // TechLife

Kaiser Permanente is stepping up its campaign against a Berkeley woman and former employee who posted links to patient information on her blog, filing new motions in an existing lawsuit that accuse her of invasion of privacy and breaking a confidentiality agreement.

According to Kaiser's lawsuit, the employee also tried to sell proprietary Kaiser information on eBay in June 2004.

Click here for the Mercury News article.

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NEW STUDY RELEASED ON THE ETHICAL ASPECTS OF ICT IMPLANTS IN THE HUMAN BODY

posted by:Ian Kerr // 09:18 AM // March 18, 2005 // TechLife

the european group on ethics in science and new technologies (ege) has recently released an opinion aimed at raising awareness of a number of ethical dilemmas created by a range of ICT implants.

among other things, the opinion indicates that ethical awareness and analysis must take place now in order to ensure an appropriate and timely impact on the various technological applications. it also proposes clear ethical boundaries, legal principles and suggests several steps that should be taken by responsible regulators in europe.

click here to download the opinion in pdf

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"Big Brother is Now Riding Shotgun"

posted by:Hilary Young // 11:51 AM // March 17, 2005 // Surveillance and social sorting

Tuesday's Ottawa Citizen included an article about insurance companies offering discounts to drivers who are willing to have monitoring devices installed in their cars. The devices monitor the speed, time and distance a car is driven. The idea is to reward safe drivers (does that mean slow drivers?) and those who drive infrequently with lower insurance rates.

For now this is just a pilot program, but interesting questions are being raised. For example, will this turn into a way for parents to monitor their teens' driving habits?

For the complete article, follow this link.

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Bloggers, spammers face clampdown

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 12:02 PM // March 16, 2005 // Digital Activism and Advocacy

An end to anonymous political speech? Australia plans to require bloggers and spammers to put their names to political commentary.

Australia's electoral laws force publishers of any electoral material to identify a person who agrees to authorise the content, and plans to extend them to apply to the Internet.

Click here for the article.

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VeriChip expands to second U.S. hospital

posted by:Michelle Gordon // 04:14 PM // March 15, 2005 // Surveillance and social sorting

VeriChip Corporation announced that a second U.S. hospital, the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, will now use the VeriChip technology in its Emergency Department and for scanning patients.

Unlike at Harvard Medical School, where the CIO, Dr. John Halamka, decided to chip himself, this hospital has announced that Molly Phillips, daughter of its Foundation's President and a juvenile diabetes patient, will be chipped this week.

See press release.

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Privacy advocates frown on Amazon snooping plan

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 09:21 AM // March 14, 2005 // Surveillance and social sorting

Amazon was granted a patent last week for a system that gathers clues about customers' gift-giving habits in order to suggest future gifts and reminders. It also profiles gift recipients and guesses their age, birthday and gender.

Click here for the CNET article.

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Congress edges toward new privacy rules

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 10:49 AM // March 13, 2005 // Digital Democracy: law, policy and politics

Members of Congress in the US are in the midst of deciding how to best respond to the recent data breaches by LexisNexis and ChoicePoint.

Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., plans to introduce a bill next week requiring "the chairman or chief enforcement officer to attest to the effectiveness of the systems that provide for control of information" and provide notification to consumers of security breaches.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is preparing his own proposal to require a "box to be posted on any Web site that seeks to obtain personal information about a customer" with disclosure about how the data will be used.

Click here for the CNET news article.

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Fujitsu sees biometric future in palms

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 10:43 AM // // Surveillance and social sorting

Fujitsu is in the process of developing a biometric scanner that identifies people by looking at the veins in the hands.

It works using infrared light to scan for hemoglobin, which provides oxygen to cells in the body, the company said. Reduced hemoglobin absorbs near-infrared rays, so on the image it shows up as black, with the rest of the hand colored white.

Click here for the CNET news article.

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Apple Can Demand Names of Bloggers, Judge Says

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 10:34 AM // // Digital Identity Management

A California judge ruled Friday that Apple Computer has the right to subpoena the names of sources and documents relating to confidential company information that was published late last year by three Web sites.

Apple's interest in protecting its trade secrets was found to outweigh the public's right to information about Apple and the right of bloggers to disseminate it.

Click here for the NY Times article.

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Tracking PCs anywhere on the Net: a new technique to identify computer hardware remotely

posted by:Rafal Morek // 11:20 PM // March 11, 2005 // Surveillance and social sorting

Security researchers led by Tadayoshi Kohno (University of California) have developed a technique for remotely fingerprinting an electronic device using clock skews - small, microscopic deviations in device hardware. This technique could potentially unmask anonymous Web surfers by bypassing some common security techniques. Kohno's research is expected to be presented at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Symposium on Security and Privacy in California in May.

Click here for the articles in the Register and
ZDNet News.

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SAP, Intel to Work Together on RFID Technology

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 11:13 AM // March 10, 2005 // Surveillance and social sorting

Software maker SAP and microchip maker Intel Corp. will work together to encourage companies to adopt radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.

The companies are collaborating in order to allow firms to integrate data collected from RFID chips.

Click here for the New York Times article.

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RFID Business

posted by:Marty // 11:38 PM // March 09, 2005 // Surveillance and social sorting

Curious to know what the corporate world is thinking when it comes to RFID tags? Want to see glossing over of privacy issues? Then click along to this article from Knowledge @ Wharton, a newsletter put out by the Wharton School of Business, which offers a peek into the how RFIDs are presented to the business reader..

Who Gains, Who Loses, from RFIDs growing presence in the marketplace?

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Lexis Nexis Hacked

posted by:Dina Mashayekhi // 05:45 PM // // Surveillance and social sorting

Lexis Nexis joins Choicepoint in failure to protect data...

NEW YORK — Hackers commandeered a database owned by information industry giant Lexis Nexis, gaining access to the personal files of as many as 32,000 people, company officials said Wednesday.

U.S. federal and company investigators were looking into the breach at Seisint, which was recently acquired by Lexis Nexis and includes millions of personal files for use by such customers as police and legal professionals.

Information accessed included names, addresses, Social Security and driver's licence numbers, but not credit history, medical records or financial information, corporate parent Reed Elsevier Group PLC said in a statement.

"We sincerely regret the circumstances that were recently announced," Kurt Sanford, president and chief executive officer of Lexis Nexis corporate and federal markets, said in a statement.

See http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20050309.gtlexismar9/BNStory/Technology/

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BEYOND THE PANOPTICON: ARCHITECTURES OF POWER IN DRM

Musings on philosophy, law and technology

posted by:Alex Cameron // 11:24 PM // March 08, 2005 // ID TRAIL MIX



The plague-stricken town, traversed throughout with hierarchy, surveillance, observation, writing; the town immobilized by the functioning of an extensive power that bears in a distinct way over all individual bodies – this is the utopia of the perfectly governed city.
– Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

It is our most sincere desire to identify a technological solution to the plague of piracy. – Jack Valenti,

To the great dismay of copyright owners, a perceived “plague” of infringement has been thriving on the world’s digital networks. Digital rights management (DRM) technology is hailed as a cure for this modern plague. DRM technology promises copyright owners a utopia of perpetual, automated and near-perfect control over their works everywhere the works may go. To the extent DRM systems can deliver on this promise, they are poised to become the ubiquitous regulators of our ability to access and use copyright works and virtually any other type of information product. Much like approaches to controlling plagues of the past, DRM embodies an architecture of panoptic power. It also embodies much more.

Common foundations

At a most basic level, DRM and panopticism are similar because they share a similar underlying epistemologically-based understanding of power relationships. DRM and panopticism derive power from information and knowledge about their respective objects of surveillance.

In both DRM and the Panopticon, the objects of surveillance are denied privacy. As a condition of participation in the architectures (as if they had a choice), the objects are required to lay themselves and their activities bare before their supervisors. This requirement ensures that all information is available for the supervisors to see and use. This information is the root of the supervisor’s power and the more information there is, the greater their power.

Thus, DRM and panopticism both buy into a particular theory of knowledge about people. This theory of knowledge holds that the more data available about a person, and the better it can be processed and classified, the better a person can be known. However, this is not knowledge for the sake of knowledge – it is knowledge in the sense of a re-creation or reconstruction of the individual. Under this theory of knowledge, information leads to ‘data-mined-and-profiled’ truth, and to power.

Common operation

In terms of its operational mechanisms, DRM is analogous to the Panopticon because DRM systems contain technological components that track and report on the works that they protect. However, this tracking and reporting creates information not only about works but, more importantly, about the people that access or use works. The fundamental premise of DRM is one of authentication – i.e. managing who has permission to do what in relation to a work. DRM requires that users disclose personal information in order access or use works. This means that DRM systems can gather detailed information about the types of works that particular users access as well as fine-grained information about how particular users use works. DRM therefore has the capability to simultaneously ‘backlight’ the activities of every user of DRM-protected works so that they are all perfectly observed at an individual level.

Beyond these similarities between DRM and the Panopticon, there are a number of ways that DRM may go beyond the Panopticon in its power.

Differing scope of conformity

First, through DRM, users may be likely to conform their behaviour very closely to all of the self-serving expectations of copyright owners. In other words, under the DRM regime, copyright owners will largely define infringement for users and what copyright owners more generally consider appropriate behaviour in relation to works. For example, beyond the non-infringement expectation, we should expect that copyright owners might establish an expectation that they are entitled to be paid for every possible use of a work, no matter what the law says or how insignificant the use might be. Under the coercive force of DRM, users who access content may be likely to conform their behaviour to this expectation. To the extent that users want access to DRM-protected content, they will have no choice but to conform.

Second, the panoptic effect of DRM may affect user behaviour even in respect of non-DRM protected works, both with respect to non-infringement and other expectations that copyright owners may coerce. In other words, once copyright owners’ expectations are internalized in users through DRM, users may automatically conform their behaviour for all copyright works and other (non-copyright) works that are not protected by DRM. Rather than take on a risk of violating the coerced expectations, users may be likely to conform across the board. This effect may be dependent on the extent to which users can distinguish between works that are protected by DRM and ones that are not. Or perhaps more accurately, it may depend on the extent to which users will avoid risk by refusing to wager being watched or getting caught on their ability to distinguish between the two categories of works.

Third, like other forms of surveillance, DRM is likely to have a broad effect on the kinds of content that users choose to access as well as the uses of content they choose to make. For example, users may self-censor by choosing not to access particular controversial works out of fear that their actions are being watched and recorded and may be exposed. In this way, DRM fundamentally interferes with intellectual exploration. Importantly, in this example users are not strictly conforming their behaviour to the expectations of copyright owners; instead, they are conforming their behaviour to perceived broader social expectations. Because this seems to have little to do with copyright interests, it may be an unintended but nonetheless powerful consequence of panopticism in DRM.

Differing scope for autonomy

Although not typically the focus of analysis in the literature discussing panopticism, it is important to note that the Panopticon sets direct limits on the scope of its subjects’ autonomous behaviour. Those limits take the physical form of prison walls and prison bars. Thus, when it comes to a discussion of the internalization effect of surveillance, panopticism typically must reserve a zone for autonomous action. The Panopticon assumes that the prisoners have some room for autonomous action within the confines of their cells – for Foucault the prisoners are “actors” in “small theaters”. Even if these actors may know that they are being watched and that they will face punishment if their behaviour does not conform to the expectations of the supervisors, at a basic level they still have room to choose how to behave. If there were no scope for autonomous action (i.e. if the coercion took the form of absolute physical restraints), then there would no point in surveillance and there would also be no internalization effect. In fact, it is arguable that the more physical the constraint is, the less effective the panoptic effect would be.

DRM similarly imposes strict constraints on end-users. The architecture of DRM seems to be more about where the walls of the metaphorical prison cell are drawn rather than what goes on inside those walls. With DRM tightly controlling access and use of copyright works, there is little scope for users to choose how to behave. In this way, DRM may not principally rely on the panoptic internalization effect to coerce; instead DRM builds the prison cell a bit smaller.

When it comes to circumvention of DRM, however, the surveillance and internalization effect in DRM is probably more significant then direct coercion. On this issue, DRM does erect some direct constraints on behaviour because it is resistant to circumvention. However, it is arguable that even with a legal architecture of coercion, users have a greater scope for autonomy because they have the ability to choose whether to try to circumvent DRM or not. In this area, DRM panoptically coerces compliance with non-circumvention legislation because of its surveillance functionality – if DRM is always watching and can detect (and act) on circumvention attempts, then users are unlikely to even attempt to circumvent. The effects of this surveillance are internalized.

In all of these ways, the architecture of DRM is similar to but also different from and potentially superior to the Panopticon. In DRM the question for the user is not always whether the guards are in the tower, but rather whether there is a tower or guards at all, or whether there is something completely different. While this lack of visibility may suggest less of a panoptic effect, the opposite may actually be true. Consider the effect of the MPAA’s latest public warning, albeit in the context of copyright infringement: “You can click but you can’t hide”.

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ChoicePoint faces inquiry, will curtail data sales

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 01:26 PM // March 07, 2005 // Digital Democracy: law, policy and politics

Choicepoint is facing an SEC inquiry over its business practices, and reports that it will exit some parts of the personal data business and sell information only in situations where specific criteria are met.

According to CEO Derek Smith, the company will only sell "sensitive" data "where there is a specific consumer-driven transaction or benefit, or where the products support federal, state or local government and criminal justice purposes."

Click here for the CNET article.

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Gag Order: No Joking Matter?

posted by:Alison Gardner Biggs // 09:16 PM // March 05, 2005 // Digital Democracy: law, policy and politics

Tonight Show host Jay Leno has been subpoenaed in Michael Jackson's trial. The trial judge has issued an extremely broad order barring those who are involved in the case from discussing the case publically.

While Leno may be able to claim constitutional protection under the First Amendment, he has already found a way to get around the order: hiring another actor to deliver his monologue jokes for him. Questions remain as to whether this makes a mockery of an order which was intended to provide for privacy and a fair trial, or whether the original order overvalued privacy issues at the expense of free speech.

Click here for a story on the First Amendment issues.

Click here for a story on hiring another actor.

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The Concealed I: Day 2 Afternoon events

posted by:Alex Cameron // 05:22 PM // // Walking On the Identity Trail

Life During Wartime: Is our Legal System Protecting the Human Face of Privacy?

Stephanie Perrin introduced and moderated our first afternoon panel discussing privacy and the legal system during wartime.

This impressive panel was expanded from the panel listed in the conference program and comprised of:

Peter Hustinix (European Data Protection Supervisor)
Jennifer Stoddart (Privacy Commissioner of Canada),
John Borking (Director, Borking Consultancy; Associate Board member, Dutch Data Protection Authority),
Andrew Clement, (Professor, Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto)
Mark Rotenberg, (Electronic Privacy Information Center)

Peter Hustinix spoke about a number of European developments, many very positive, in the context of privacy as a human right.

Jennifer Stoddart talked about the situation in Canada and indicated that it was not as positive as the European situation. She described Canadians’ feelings of their current state in society before their government as ‘naked citizens’ in front of a fully clothed emperor who keeps adding more and more layers of clothes through the seasons. The Commissioner is participating with the government on a number of projects in post 9/11 atmosphere. For example, the Commissioner has been in a waiting position regarding no fly lists (or watch lists) for six months. They have been waiting for a privacy impact assessment on this project which is not forthcoming despite the development of the list. The Commissioner has also been consulted regarding a biometric passport which apparently is being rolled out for diplomats. She expressed concern about disturbing trends and projects in Canada, including lawful access, DNA databanks, weakening of PIPEDA to conscript private sector for law enforcement. We are faced with a diminished expectation of privacy. We are left in the dark as things are developed in Canada.

John Borking, discussed a number of his thoughts about privacy developments in ‘wartime’, particularly with regard to his paper on Privacy Enhancing Technologies recently submitted to the University of Ottawa Technology law Journal (stay tuned). He talked about his work on the PRIME project in Europe. The focus of his talk was in relation to airport security. He said we will get biometric identifiers on our passports and see the use of RFIDs in airports. His research analyzed the parties involved and the flow of data in airports, from check-in to boarding etc. He talked about the solution to some of these privacy problems suggested by the PRIME project – a type of smart card.

Andrew Clement talked about biometric passports proposed in Canada and generally. He suggested that they will not work in stopping people with ill-intent. It will not be effective because people without a record of bad behaviour will pass through even the tightest security, not because the technologies are ineffective (which they in any event are). No evidence every presented to suggest it will be effective.

Marc Rotenberg spoke about how the systems that we had to maintain balance and accountability are under attack, there is increased secrecy in government activities that implicate privacy (particularly in the area of passenger profiling).


Who Are the Privacy Advocates?: From CIPPIC to Sousveillance

David Matheson introduced our final panel of speakers regarding privacy advocacy:

Colin Bennett, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Victoria
Steve Mann, Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Toronto
Philippa Lawson, Executive Director, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC)
Stefan Brands, Adjunct Professor, McGill University, School of Computer Science

Colin Bennett talked about a new research project he is embarking on in a presentation titled “Privacy Advocacy and Activism: Spotlighting Surveillance Practices in a Networked World”. He reviewed a number of background assumptions including globalization, a proliferation of policy instruments (regulatory instruments, self-regulatory instruments, technological instruments, transnational instruments) and increased frequency of resistance to surveillance practices. Colin provided a typology of advocacy coalition to demonstrate how privacy activism is embedded within other groups (e.g. civil liberties, Internet rights, human rights, consumer rights, software provider advocates, academic advocates etc.). He asked why the “Friends of the Earth of Privacy” has never formed? In response to this he posed several possible hypotheses: free-rider problem, strange bedfellows, contradictory interests, crowding of privacy space, abstract issue.

Steve Mann, gave a fascinating and thought-provoking talk about his concept of “Equiveillance: The equilibrium between Surveillance and Sous-veillance”. Steve reflected on his thoughts about the contrasts between surveillance and sousveillence on a number of different levels and grounds. He reflected on his experiences as an inventor and showed some excellent videos of his sousveillance work in department stores. Steve also showed us his “Funtain” instrument – a wild human-computer fluid interface!

Philippa Lawson gave a presentation titled “Privacy Activism in Canada: CIPPIC's Approach”. She described why privacy advocacy work is so important: hidden nature of violations, power imbalance, law lags business practices and technology, individuals don’t have the time or energy to pursue complaints, and privacy commissioners have many conflicting roles. She provided an overview of CIPPIC’s approaches to advocacy: establishing rights, exercising rights, exposing violations, etc. In terms of technique, CIPPIC acts both reactively and proactively. On the proactive side, CIPPIC writes research reports, exposing facts, assessing policies, ‘mystery shopping’, filing complaints, lawsuits, lobbying etc. Lessons learned: solid research, caution about collaborating with adversaries, no one right approach to advocacy.

Stefan closed the panel by likening the current battle of privacy advocates to a rope-pulling effort with an increasingly powerful opponent. The privacy opponent is not driven by evil intent but by globalization, computerization, efficiency imperatives, and a resulting need for better security. Stefan argued that privacy advocates and regulators are hurting the privacy cause by not adequately integrating what he calls Privacy Technology Advocates into privacy debates. He cautioned that many privacy battles and regulatory efforts are based on erroneous implicit assumptions about what technology can and cannot do. He illustrated this by discussing how identity data can be electronically shared across unlinkable domains without destroying the unlinkability. He ended with a plea for regulators and privacy advocates to work more closely with privacy technology advocates in order to make the privacy debate less polarized and thereby help the privacy cause.

Closing remarks

Closing remarks from Ian Kerr wrapped up this amazing conference! Ian thanked the students who helped organize the conference and talked a little about the role of academics in inspiring students who truly care about the issues explored at conference. Ian mentioned a number of concrete items that will come out of the conference:

- Policy Scan summary from Federal Privacy Commissioner's office
- written report on the conference to come from the Privacy Commissioner's office (posted on our site too)
- video archive of the conference
- special symposium in University of Ottawa Law and Technology Journal

Ian thanked the sponsors, including SSHRC and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's office, Department of Justice, Bell, Microsoft.

Watch for the Contours of Privacy conference...

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They look to your cell-phone first

posted by:Marty // 03:38 PM // // Surveillance and social sorting

I came across this interesting blog post discussing how law enforcement increasingly check out cell-phone records of suspects. Further, the post offers commentary on what it means to connect the dots between where a cell-phone is, physically, in relation to the crime scene.

Check it out here

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No more anonymous .us registration

posted by:Marty // 02:59 PM // // Digital Democracy: law, policy and politics | Surveillance and social sorting

On Friday March 4, 2005, Wired published a story that the US Commerce Department has banned proxy registration, i.e. anonymous registration, of .us domain names.

The department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, has responded to this by saying this has always been its policy and there is no policy change. See the latest here.

What's the big idea of anonymous domain name registration? For one thing, spammers pluck contact info from registries and spam spam spam. This is of course on top of the standard issues of online anonymity.

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The Concealed I: Day 2 Morning events

posted by:Alex Cameron // 12:27 PM // // Walking On the Identity Trail

Anonymity, Identity and Constitutions

The first panel today was introduced and moderated by Peter Hustinix, European Data Protection Supervisor.

Daphne Gilbert (Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa) gave a presentation titled “Seeking Equality Anonymously: Naming names in Section 15 litigation “. She reviewed two Supreme Court of Canada cases considering section15 of the Charter to demonstrate a number of points in connection with human dignity. She examined how the identity of the claimant factored into these decisions and what the impact was for human dignity. For example, she asked whether the claimant was a representative stand-in for a broader group or class of individuals. In the Gosselin case, the answer was certainly ‘yes’ given that it was a class action. She suggested that the personal aspect and facts of a case are necessary to put the case into a context but that it is not clear that specific facts actually make a difference when it comes to the analysis. She discussed a number of reasons why this is an important problem and why the details of an individual claimant’s identity are so important. She suggested that all details of a claimant’s identity that pertain to the impact of the legislation should matter. In Gosselin, this means that the fact that she was a woman and that she was on social assistance were key factors that matters – her age should not have been the key factor. Finally, Daphne asked what happens when the individual identity of claimants does not seem to matter. She said that we get decisions like Gosselin – among other things, decontextualized, without regard to human dignity. Gosselin was not anonymous and should not have been made so by the decision.

Paul de Hert (Professor, Faculty of Law, Leiden University & Free University Brussels) gave a presentation titled “Trumping surveillance with anonymity or with opacity? A European perspective”. After introducing the idea of trumps, he discussed two tools of power governance: blocking power (idea of privacy) and allowing power but channeling it (idea of data protection). He pointed out that data protection can merely channel power that is itself illegitimate. He suggests that more attention should be paid to the blocking aspect of privacy, particularly in light of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (2001).

A. Michael Froomkin (Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Miami) gave a fascinating presentation titled “Anonymity Law in the US: Latest Developments, Familiar Problems”. He covered the foundations of the debate (harms and benefits of anonymity recognized in the USA), the regulation of anonymity (eg DRM), access to communicative anonymizing technology (crypto) and the destabilizing effects of new technologies. He discussed a number of positive and negative developments in the USA, including exploring the status of anonymity in political speech, private civil actions, Patriot Act etc. In terms of destabilizing technologies, he mentioned massive databases, facial recognition and DRM (making the world a safer place for copyright). Michael concluded his presentation with two suggestions about what is to be done. The first task is legislative but he recognized that the current US administration doesn’t care about privacy and that for now we must rely on the courts to police (only the grossest) privacy violations. Second, and more important than the legal solutions, are setting standards in new technologies and developing tools as a couple of examples.


Gender, Race & the Social Casualties of Information Policy

After a short break, Marsha Hanen introduced and moderated a panel on Gender, Race & the Social Casualties of Information Policy.

Jane Doe spoke first and gave a tremendous presentation titled “Anonymity, Women ad Sexual Assault”. Jane’s presentation reflected a number of her personal experiences and the results of her interviews with women who had been sexually assaulted. Jane has an upcoming paper discussing these issues. She stated that woman who file sexual assault charges are themselves criminalized and that the criminal justice system poses a threat to them. Women are shamed, not believed, subjected to medical exams, humiliated, lied-to and insulted by court officials, shunned by friends and family and community and forbidden to speak about their experiences. She gave a moving account of how women’s bodies function as crime sites and how women must remove themselves from their own bodies in this process. Why would any woman report a sexual assault and subject herself to all this abuse, especially when the conviction rate in Ontario is under 5%? For many of the women Jane interviewed, the notion of privacy through a publication ban is exactly that – a notion. It only prevents certain kinds of publication. Women in small communities, for example, found that the entire community had full knowledge because the women could not be protected in the court room.

Oscar Gandy’s presentation was titled “Racial Profiling: They say it’s against the law.” He reported on a continuing project on policy formation in the area of racial profiling, describing past research into how racial profiling was framed in major newspapers. That research found that most articles concluded that racial profiling was wrong, particularly where newspapers were based in areas with large black populations. He pointed out that since 9/11, racial profiling has come to the fore again. In his latest research, he used Lexis/Nexis to look at 1999-2004 legislative developments at the state level. He found 24 laws that were a response to racial profiling. Found considerable variation between laws, particularly in the way that racial profiling was defined. For example, there were differences between states that base their approach to the issue on “sole” factor and those that say any reliance on race to justify investigatory activity is illegal.

Following the presentations, a number of excellent questions were posed by the audience and an excellent discussion ensued and continued into the lunch break.

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The Concealed I: Blog of Day 1 events

posted by:Alex Cameron // 06:04 PM // March 04, 2005 // Walking On the Identity Trail

Bonjour and hello! Events got underway today at our multi-disciplinary conference at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law: “The Concealed I: Anonymity, Identity and the Prospect of Identity”. This blog entry sketches events of the day in a general way, and without purporting to be an accurate or complete transcript of events.

Introductions and welcomes were made by Ian Kerr, Bruce Feldthusen (Dean of the Common Law Section, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa) and Pamela Wiggin, (Vice-President, Knowledge Products and Mobilization, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council).


Nature and Value of Privacy and Anonymity

Following the introduction to the conference, Valerie Steeves introduced the first panel, including Alan Westin. Alan set the scene for the morning’s events and for the conference. Drawing from his work, he conducted a fascinating review of the concept of anonymity in the biblical Hebrews, the Roman Empire, and the American Republic. Helen Nissenbaum, Dept. of Culture and Communication, New York University continued the theme of setting the stage for the conference by posing a number of additional thought-provoking questions for the audience to think about. These questions included: Do we have a right to anonymous speech? Do we have a right to read anonymously? Should we allow anonymous email? In thinking about ways that we might go about answering these questions, she explored several different layers of analysis. At bottom – interest politics. At top – conflicts of rights and values. Middle – social systems, institutions, cultures… etc. (eg. Walzer’s “Spheres of Justice”, Bourdieu’s “fields”, Luhman’s “systems”). She discussed norms of information flow in terms of appropriateness of the information and method/means of transmission. The presentation concluded with presentation of an “Application Heuristic” that asked the following questions: (a) what is the governing context? (b) what types of information are in question? (c) according to what principles is the information in question (e.g. identifying information) transmitted among (what) actors, in the context? A number of questions were posed by audience members and an excellent discussion ensued.


Public Perceptions of Privacy and Anonymity

After a short break, Steven Davis introduced our next panel, comprised of David Lyon (Prof., Dept. of Sociology, Queens University) and Gary Marx (Prof. Emeritus, M.I.T.). David Lyon’s presentation was titled “Systematic surveillance and perceptions of privacy”. David talked about aspects and preliminary results of his survey research into attitudes regarding privacy in Canada and other countries around the world. Further details can be found at http://www.queensu.ca/sociology/Surveillance/research.htm. Gary Marx’s presentation was titled “What’s in a Concept?: Some Reflections on the Complications and Complexities of Personal Information and Anonymity?”. Gary explored ideas about different types and sources of personal information, including indications of social perceptions and reflections of personal information and anonymity.

- Lunch -


Privacy Commissioners Panel

After lunch, Bruce Phillips gave an inspired introduction for the panel of privacy commissioner speakers. He praised the work of the commissioners and emphasized the importance of the public education aspect of the role of commissioners. He feels that people can make intelligent decisions about privacy, as long as they are informed!

The first speaker on the panel was the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart. The Commissioner spoke about the role of privacy commissioners and issues facing the commissioner’s community. She viewed the commissioners’ role as pragmatic, flexible to respond, and principally to apply the standards that are set down by legislation in response to the needs of local constituents. She noted that the commissioners themselves reflect a wide array pf personal information defining issue in the public and private sphere, making them a bell-weather of privacy issues. She emphasized the importance of public participation as a key to the solution to identity challenges through public education, public debate and education.

Frank Work, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta talked about developments and privacy issues in Alberta. He noted that his office is now allied with police forces in the area of ID theft. He stated that his office now receives bags and bags of commercial papers. For example, where the police bust a drug operation, they will often find a lot of documents with personal information. These documents are referred to the privacy commissioner to look for possible ID theft and begin investigations where appropriate. Frank Work noted that his office has been involved in reviewing hundreds of PIAs. Finally, he stated that the government wants more information about his office because, in some cases, the government wants to service the commissioner better.

Peter Bower, Executive Director, Access and Privacy Ombudsman, Manitoba spoke about (1) state of information management (records management systems) and (2) state of research in social sciences and natural sciences, particularly medical research. Peter remarked that the state of information management is terrible. He noted that research into archives is being held up as a result of privacy concerns. While the medical community has made progress on this issue, the social sciences are way behind.

Mary O’Donoghue, Senior Counsel and Manager of Legal Services - Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario, spoke about recent issues facing the Ontario commissioner’s office. Among the issues discussed was police retention of fingerprint and photos. The IPC Ontario was able to persuade the police to reconsider their policy in light of privacy considerations. She also noted that a number of privacy issues had arisen in schools – searching students for drugs, strip searches, video surveillance, police dogs in schools etc. The IPC Ontario developed guidelines which are now in place and well-received.

Prof. Michael Geist asked the commissioners about outsourcing issue and international data transfers. He also asked about how commissioners’ viewed their jurisdiction to pursue foreign entities (eg.. the Abika complaint filed by CIPPIC). Commissioner Stoddart replied that they have material on their site regarding the outsourcing issue and pointed to a number of ongoing initiatives in the area. She also advised that her office is conducting an audit of transborder flow of data in the public sector. With respect to the collection of Canadians’ personal information by outside entities, she remarked that the chain of collection is partly in Canada and so they do have jurisdiction over that and are investigating it. Further, where a US company is doing the collecting, she stated that her office is in talks with the US FTC regarding the possibility of a joint approach to the issue.

Philippa Lawson of CIPPIC asked excellent questions about the decisions of the commissioners. Commissioner Stoddart responded to these questions. She noted that where there is a written complaint, the commissioner is supposed to respond in writing every time. Not the same with phone calls regarding complaints. Why not name names? The commissioner is actively looking into criteria for doing this soon. She advised that not every finding is published, but rather only those that bring up new educational value issues.


The Great Debate

Following the panel, Declan McCullough of CNet moderated a spirited and lively debate between Marc Rotenberg of EPIC and David Harris, Director of INSIGNIS and former Chief of Strategic Planning at CSIS. The topic: Be it resolved that a national identity card should be established in Canada and the United States. Following a great face-off between Marc and David, Declan asked a number of questions and moderated questions from the audience.


Is the Future the P.I.T.s?: Implanting and Extracting Identity

After a brief break, we reconvened and Paul Van Oorschot moderated an excellent panel of final speakers for the day: Ian Kerr, Latanya Sweeney ( and Michael Krawitz (Executive VP and CPO of Applied Digital).

Michael spoke first and discussed the VeriChip produced by Applied Digital. He focused his discussion on the medical, financial and security uses and advantages of VeriChip. He described the example of seniors using VeriChip to contain health information so that doctors and hospitals can rely on the chip rather than the imperfect memory of the person. He compared the VeriChip to a medic-alert bracelet. In the financial context, he described how VeriChip can be used to protect against ID theft by acting as a secondary authentication device.

Next up, Latanya Sweeney of the Data Privacy Lab at Carnegie Mellon (Associate Professor of Computer Science, Technology and Policy, Institute for Software Research International) gave an amazing presentation of her research areas. She reviewed a number of areas and focused her talk regarding RFIDs on ID theft. She described how Zip Code, Birth Date and Sex information can be used to link and uniquely identify 87% of US population. She talked about her Identity Angel project which scans the web to see if there is enough information available about you to enable someone to commit a fraud against you or to commit ID theft. The idea is to then contact the vulnerable person. The ID Angel project found evidence of online resumes with lots of information about people. For example, 140 or 150 resumes with SSNs. They contacted 105 of the people at issue and received a variety of different replies ranging from thanks to threats of lawsuit! She discussed how the VeriChip will eventually lead to all the same kinds of problems we see in the data explosion now and with online databases. For example, restaurants will want its customers to have VeriChips and to have access to information about allergies. Same thing for amusement parks and heart condition information as another example.

To conclude the presentations for the day, Ian Kerr gave an energized presentation “Still feelin ‘icky’: The Utopias of Conrad Chase, Kevin Warwick and other Digital Angels”. This presentation recounted Ian’s experience with the Baja Beach Club in Barcelona. This club was implanting customers with “VIP” chips that permitted access to the VIP lounge at the club and enabled payment. Ian’s presentation explored what it might be like to live in a wireless world in which our devices all talk to one another in an automated way that doesn’t necessarily involve us. We move from a world of local area networks to ‘PANs’ – Personal Area Networks. Ian discussed Kevin Warwick’s neural transducer surgical implants intended to send and receive signals from computers and others. Other implantable devices include insulin, cochlear implants (phones, MP3 players etc. can be linked). He pointed out that the nature of the information created in the PANs (like blood sugar, neural signals etc.) leads to heightened security and privacy needs. Are we moving from the network of ideas, to the network of things, to the network of people? Ian is very interested in this apparent move towards the merger of human and machines.

Great discussion ensued…. lots of questions for Michael!

End of Day 1!

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Security firm trashes customer e-mails

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 02:08 PM // // TechLife

GFI, an email scanning company, is offering free upgrades to all its customers, after it trashed their e-mails by sending out incorrect update information.

Click here for the CNET article.

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Will the real Bill Graham please stand up?

posted by:Alex Cameron // 09:40 AM // // Digital Democracy: law, policy and politics

There are reports that Canadian Defence Minister Bill Graham was recently obliged to prove to US officials that he really was who he says he was before they permitted him to board a plane. It's not clear whether a "Bill Graham" was on a no-fly list but the story is amusing.

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Pre-conference events in Ottawa! Student Salon kicks-off events

posted by:Alex Cameron // 12:19 PM // March 03, 2005 // Walking On the Identity Trail

I am keeping a general blog of the proceedings of the Concealed I conference over the next few days in Ottawa. Pre-conference events kicked-off this morning with an exciting student salon and a keynote address by Prof. Emeritus Gary Marx.

The Student Salon on Anonymity, Identity and the Prospect of Privacy, presented in part by the IT Law Society, commenced with a welcome and introduction by Ian Kerr, principal investigator for On the Identity Trail.

The first group of speakers were students from the University of Toronto working with Bell Labs.

Rajen Akalu from UofT spoke first about implementation of PIPEDA and his work regarding the Openness principle under the Act. His research also focuses on how reasonable expectations regarding privacy are changing in the digital age. Research results will be presented soon at http://pipedaproject.rcat.utoronto.ca. conference March 18, 2005 (Toronto).

Barbara Bresssolles then talked about implementing PIPEDA in the airline industry. She says that the basic problem is over-collection and improper sharing of information for national security purposes. Barbara discussed a number of findings of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada in relation to airlines. She mentioned that the Public Safety Act 2002, s.98 removed the ability of the commissioner to investigate privacy complaints where the information at issues was collected, used or disclosed for national security purposes. She pointed out how this weakens privacy rights in PIPEDA. In her research, she reviewed the privacy polices of Air Canada, WestJet, CanJet and Jetsgo based on the 10 CSA principles.

Finally, Sapna Mahboobani talked about her research into how privacy policies placed on banking websites measure up to the openness principle.

Just after 10am, a panel of students working on the On the Identity Trail project spoke regarding their research. First up was. Catherine Thompson who discussed her work on an Access to Information manual and the case of Steve Mann’s privacy requests in connection with surveillance and security measures in Toronto. Mohammed Layouni spoke about his research into some of the building blocks for constructing privacy-regarding information systems. Finally, Alex Cameron spoke about his research into the conflict between privacy and copyright interests in our information society. He discussed the compelled disclosure of identity concept in connection with lawsuits filed against file-sharers and the privacy implications of DRM.

Ian Kerr introduced our keynote speaker, Prof. Emeritus Gary Marx. Gary’s speech was entitled “Windows into the Soul: Surveillance and Society in and Age of High Technology”. Gary gave an engaging and thought-provoking talk. Among the topics and questions Gary discussed were the “new surveillance”, including brainwave scanning. He posed a number of important questions about whether we are becoming a maximum security society and whether we still have privacy. In the context of new technologies, Gary explored how technologies continually develop to invade privacy and to get around those same technologies in numerous ways. A great discussion ensued with the audience before we broke for lunch.

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Privacy Rights of Deceased Email Account User

posted by:Anne Ko // 10:06 PM // March 02, 2005 // Digital Democracy: law, policy and politics

What happens with your email account when you die?
Does your family have access?
Or rather, would you want your family to have access?

These are the looming questions in the continuing Yahoo saga involving the grieving parents of a US soldier killed in Iraq, and the contents of his Yahoo email account.

Under Yahoo policy, email accounts are erased if there has been no activity for 120 days. For months, Yahoo has refused to release the email content at the request of the soldier’s parents amidst concerns of breaching the privacy rights of its users. However, the soldier’s account has yet to be erased (since his death last November) and Yahoo is currently in negotiation with the parents to come to a “shared goal of finding a mutually agreeable resolution to a complicated and, in many ways, uncharted issue."

To read the article in USTODAY.com, click here.

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Choicepoint and Canadians

posted by:Philippa Lawson // 02:05 PM // // Digital Democracy: law, policy and politics

As part of a bigger project on consumer profiling, CIPPIC is researching the extent to which Choicepoint (and other information brokers) deal with Canadian consumer information. We started this research before the recent debacle, which has made the task of contacting the company and getting answers somewhat more difficult. It is not clear what information about Canadians Choicepoint has in its databases, but indications so far suggest that Choicepoint has at least some information from provincial drivers licence databases, and will provide employment screening services on Canadians. We are continuing to research this and will of course publish the results of our research.

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CIPPIC calls for law requiring disclosure of privacy breaches

posted by:Philippa Lawson // 01:53 PM // // Digital Democracy: law, policy and politics

A recently disclosed privacy breach at giant US-based information broker Choicepoint points out the need for a new law in Canada requiring businesses to notify affected individuals of security breaches that make their personal data vulnerable to identity theft, say Canadian consumer and privacy advocates.

Ottawa, ON
March 2, 2005

GROUPS CALL FOR PRIVACY BREACH DISCLOSURE LAW

A recently disclosed privacy breach at giant US-based information broker Choicepoint points out the need for a new law in Canada to help protect potential victims of identity theft, say consumer and privacy advocates.

Choicepoint is the largest of a number of data brokers that specialize in collecting personal information about individuals and selling it to businesses and governments for marketing, background checks, and other purposes. Choicepoint's 19 billion public and private records are organized into detailed digital dossiers on millions of individuals and made available to a wide array of clients including insurance agencies, employee screeners, direct marketers, media outlets, and law enforcement agencies.

Last week, it came to light that Choicepoint had been duped into giving criminals access to its massive database of personal information. Apparently, thieves posing as legitimate businesses opened up several accounts with Choicepoint and received detailed information including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and credit reports, about at least 145,000 Americans.

"This disaster was waiting to happen", said Philippa Lawson, Executive Director of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) at the University of Ottawa. "You can't allow such unconstrained collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the marketplace and expect that everything will be fine. The bigger and richer the databases, the more attractive they will be to identity thieves. And as more personal information is amassed and traded in the marketplace, more people who will be harmed by decisions based on incorrect or misinterpreted information."

Choicepoint's website does not indicate the extent to which it deals with data on Canadians, and attempts to find this out by calling the company were fruitless.

Lawson points out that there are many other data brokers dealing with our personal information, whose identity and practices we are largely unaware of. "While the situation is better in Canada because of our privacy laws that restrict business's right to collect, use and disclose our personal information, we are still vulnerable, in large part because we simply don't know when our information is made vulnerable to identity theft", she said.

The Choicepoint privacy breach was originally disclosed to over 34,000 Californians whose data had been exposed. California law requires that companies notify individuals when a security breach exposes their data. But the other 110,000 US citizens affected by the breach were only notified after public outcry pressured Choicepoint to do so.

That's why CIPPIC and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) are calling on the Canadian government to enact legislation requiring businesses in this country to notify individuals when their personal data is exposed to unauthorized access. "This is a clear instance where market forces do not suffice", said John Lawford, Counsel for PIAC. "No company is going to disclose security breaches that might otherwise go undetected unless they are required to do so. It's too damaging to their public image. We're never going to know when our personal information is at risk unless companies and government are required to report privacy breaches, as in California."

"We've been calling for a rule such as that in California for a while now", said Lawson. "This case is a perfect illustration of why such a law is needed."

- 30 –

For more information, see:

Consumer Coalition calls for stronger ID theft protection in Canada: http://www.piac.ca/CCI_media_release_1_Feb.htm
Identity Theft: The Need for Better Consumer Protection (PIAC, 2003): http://www.piac.ca/IDTHEFT.pdf
US Privacy Advocates news release in response to Choicepoint disclosure: http://www.privacyrights.org/Media/CPBofAResponsePR.htm
EPIC webpage on Choicepoint: http://www.epic.org/privacy/choicepoint/
EPIC webpage on California "Shine the Light" law: http://www.epic.org/privacy/profiling/sb27.html
EPIC letter to Choicepoint re: privacy breach http://www.epic.org/privacy/choicepoint/cpltr2.18.05.html

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Clinton, Boxer pushing e-voting bill in Senate

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 01:22 PM // // Digital Democracy: law, policy and politics

U.S. Sens. Hilary Clinton (D-NY) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced a bill, The Count Every Vote Act, that would require every vote cast in electronic voting machines to be accopmanied by a voter-verified paper ballot.

The bill mandates that verified paper ballots would become the official ballot record in case of a recount, and seeks to increase security measures for e-voting machines. The bill is co-sponsored by Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio).

Click here for the Computerworld article.

Click here for a copy of the bill.

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The Implications of ChoicePoint for Those Outside the U.S.

posted by:Marcia Hofmann // 04:16 PM // March 01, 2005 // ID TRAIL MIX

It was reported earlier this month that ChoicePoint -- a U.S.-based company that maintains massive databases of information about individuals -- sold personal information about tens of thousands of Americans to identity thieves posing as legitimate businesses. As more information about the ChoicePoint sale became public, the number of individuals potentially affected climbed to nearly 150,000. ChoicePoint, which first learned of the problem four months ago, responded by characterizing itself in a press release (which has since been removed from its web site) as the victim of "a fraud committed against us." The company noted that "the incident did not involve any of ChoicePoint’s customer information" -- that is, information about the corporations and agencies that purchase consumers' information from ChoicePoint. "Nevertheless," ChoicePoint continued, "this is a serious issue which ChoicePoint is addressing aggressively."

The story has continued to unfurl for two weeks. Just yesterday, a news report said that ChoicePoint has been sued no fewer than eleven times since 2000 for illegally making available personal information protected by law, as well as for selling incorrect personal information to insurers and potential employers.

News of ChoicePoint's actions is certainly troubling to those in the U.S., most of whom are continuously affected by what the company does with their information. But why should anyone outside the U.S. care about this company or what it does? Because ChoicePoint does not maintain information solely on U.S. citizens. Through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, EPIC learned (pdf) in April 2002 that the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, now part of the Department of Homeland Security, had purchased personal information from the national ID databases of several Latin American countries. The documents showed that ChoicePoint had a contract with the agency to provide citizen registry, motor vehicle, and other information about residents of Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Columbia, and Costa Rica. Another set of documents obtained by EPIC from the INS revealed (pdf) that ChoicePoint offered the agency unlimited direct access to international databases for a $1 million fee. It is unclear how extensive ChoicePoint’s international databases are, or which countries' citizens are included in them. However, the ChoicePoint documents obtained by EPIC show that as of 2001 the company had partnerships that extended its reach into Latin America, Europe, and the Pacific Rim.

Those outside the U.S. should also know that ChoicePoint has its figurative fingers in many, many figurative pies. Washington Post journalist Robert O'Harrow reported in January that ChoicePoint currently provides "actionable intelligence”"to more than 50,000 corporate and government clients. On the government side, ChoicePoint provides services to 35 local, state, and federal agencies in the U.S., including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Drug Enforcement Administration, and, of course, the former INS. These are agencies that make critical, life-altering decisions every day about Americans and non-Americans alike -- and they rely on ChoicePoint's data to do it.

ChoicePoint has been mentioned in the press often since the company's debacle became public. The media often omits the important fact, though, that ChoicePoint isn't the only company of its type. There are other mammoth information conglomerates -- including Acxiom and LexisNexis -- that combine to create a full-blown industry of data dealers.

This industry has very little obligation to the people about whom it sells information, regardless of their nationalities. Such companies are generally not covered by the Privacy Act of 1974, which regulates how government agencies collect and maintain personal information about Americans and permanent residents. In the absence of any comparable regulation, data brokerage companies are generally free to use American residents' personal information in ways that the U.S. government legally can't. Non-Americans who aren’t permanent residents strike out altogether -- they have no rights in personal information maintained by the U.S. government or data brokers.

Despite its lack of accountability, the information brokerage industry provides a number of services to the U.S. government, often in high-stakes contexts involving law enforcement or homeland security. In particular, the data industry is becoming increasingly involved in verifying and authenticating individuals' identities, the service ChoicePoint CEO Derek Smith has called his company's "core competency."

When data from information brokerage companies contribute to law enforcement or homeland security decisions, erroneous information is uniquely situated to impact a person's life and liberty. This danger becomes more serious as the government increasingly depends on the data brokerage industry to verify identities and help determine how threatening people are, or how risky it is for the government to trust them.

ChoicePoint has already been sued by a job applicant passed over for a position when his potential employer paid ChoicePoint to conduct a background check and learned that the applicant was a convicted felon when the applicant had, in fact, never been convicted of a felony. This scenario is bad enough.

It will be another matter when a foreign visitor can't enter the United States because inaccurate information from ChoicePoint or another data broker triggers suspicion that the visitor may be dangerous or otherwise untrustworthy. Suppose the visitor loses the privilege to ever enter the U.S. Suppose the visitor tells the U.S. government that a mistake has been made and asks to see the information on which this decision was based. Suppose the government refuses to disclose the information because it contributed to a decision involving homeland security, and because the U.S. government has no legal obligation to allow visitors to see the information it has about them. Suppose the visitor's only recourse is to prove the inaccuracy of information he is not allowed to know. Suppose the visitor must live with the stigma of being branded "suspicious," not just in his dealings with other people, but also in databases that will affect his life for years to come in ways he can’t begin to fathom.

Data brokers face an awesome responsibility to the people whose information they buy, sell, and profit from. The U.S. government also is responsible to people when it makes decisions drastically affecting their freedom. Unfortunately, U.S. law imposes no obligation on data brokers or the U.S. government to assume these responsibilities, particularly as far as non-Americans are concerned.

ChoicePoint's checkered history underscores how important it is for data brokers to be legally responsible for the accuracy of information they provide to the U.S. government. In turn, the government must be legally responsible for verifying the accuracy of information it uses to make important determinations about people. Regardless of nationality, individuals need convenient avenues by which to learn, challenge, and correct information maintained about them by data brokers.

The episode also raises an issue at the core of On the Identity Trail: who controls the disclosure of personal information? Privacy advocates believe that one solution to problems created by companies such as ChoicePoint is to give individuals greater control over the disclosure of their personal information held by others. In the credit reporting context, for example, one reform would allow consumers to "freeze" their credit reports so that their financial information would only be revealed when they choose to do so.

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