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Reasonable Expectation of Privacy Workshop Movies

posted by:Jeremy Hessing-Lewis // 02:10 PM // May 23, 2007 // Computers, Freedom & Privacy Conference (CFP) | General | TechLife

The IDTrail Team produced two short films exploring the "reasonable expectations of privacy". They were used at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy (CFP) 2007 conference in Montreal, Canada. The short films were produced and directed by Max Binnie, Katie Black and Jeremy Hessing-Lewis with contributions from Daniel Albahary, Ian Kerr, and Jane Bailey. They are available for download under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license after the jump.

The first film, "Tessling-Just the Facts", is a brief dramatization of the facts that gave rise to R. v. Tessling [2004], a criminal case which addressed the concept of the "reasonable expectation of privacy" with respect to forward-looking infrared (FLIR) technology.

Download Tessling-Just the Facts (Save As...))
Format: .mov[Quicktime],Duration: 4min22sec, Size: 9.53MB.

The second film, "CFP-Interviews", is a documentary that provides the viewer with a taste of various public interest perspectives on how to conceive of "reasonable expectations of privacy". It features short interviews with the following experts in the field of privacy, civil rights and law, in order of appearance:

Starring (in order of appearance):
Clayton Ruby, Ruby & Edwardh
Andrew Clement, University of Toronto
Peter Jordan, Engineer (ret.)
Chris Hoofnagle, Samuelson Clinic, UC Berkeley
Eugene Oscapella, Lawyer, Foundation for Drug Policy
David Sobel, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
Pippa Lawson, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC)
Jim Karygiannis, MP Scarborough-Agincourt
Marc Rotenberg, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Cindy Cohn, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
Marlene Jennings, MP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce -- Lachine
Deirdre Mulligan, Samuelson Clinic, UC Berkeley

Download Public Interest Perspectives (Save As...)
Format: .mov[Quicktime], Duration:25min52sec, Size: 54.8MB.

Creative Commons License

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Remember when we could forget?

posted by:Jeremy Hessing-Lewis // 12:39 PM // May 15, 2007 // Commentary &/or random thoughts | General | TechLife

CBC's "The Current" ran an excellent piece on the Internet's memory (available in podcast HERE). The broadast began with an interview with Michael Fertik of ReputationDefender.com. Fertik notes:

"We've never had to live before with our momentary mistakes in judgment for the rest of our lives, which is sort of a global tattooing machine."

The Internet's memory is then discussed by Brewster Kahle, creator of The Internet Archive, and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, of Harvard University and author of Useful Void: The Art of Forgetting in the Age of Ubiquitous Computing. These commentators draw attention to the simultaneous social necessity of both forgetting and remembering and how these natural functions are being skewed by network computing.

On the one side, Mayer-Schönberger notes that forgetting is a natural cognitive process that has yet to be re-learned by information technologies. He gives the example of Google's storage of every search query by every user and every result that they clicked-on since the start of the service. In other words, Google never forgets. In his paper, Mayer-Schönberger writes:

For millennia, humans have had to deliberately choose what to remember. The default was to forget. In the digital age, this default of forgetting has changed into a default of remembering.
His response is to reintroduce the concept of time by introducing expiry dates associated with data. For example, Google's Gmail service should give users the ability to wipe data after a certain period.

In contrast, Kahle describes the importance of archiving the web in order to fulfill the library's role of creating a "memory institution" in order to give reference to what people have seen before. Without such a service, he suggests that we live in an Orwellian universe where we are locked in the "perpetual present."

Kahle concludes: "How do you select what should be kept and what shouldn't be kept?" For example, we as a society may want to hold corporations accountable for statements made in the previous quarter. He adds that the really scary aspect is less the published content and more of the usage data such as the Google searches.

We are left with an awkward computing architecture where information is both fleeting and permanent. Users are left trying to remember when we could forget.

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Username and Password: Repeat ad infinitum

posted by:Jeremy Hessing-Lewis // 07:22 PM // March 03, 2007 // Commentary &/or random thoughts | Digital Identity Management | General | TechLife | Walking On the Identity Trail

The Globe's Ivor Tossel has a nice little piece on online identity management entitled: Who do you want to be?.

Tossel writes:

It's a problem that's older than the Web itself. One of the Internet's basic weaknesses is that there's no central way of keeping track of who you are. In real life, we have one identity that we take everywhere (it's the one on your passport, assuming you can get one these days). But there's no virtual passport in cyberspace: People change names online more often than they change underpants. Every time you go to a new website, you have to start the process of identifying yourself all over again.

Interestingly, I spent 45 minutes trying to find my username and password so that I could login to make this blog post.

I also broke my usual prohibition on reading comments and was delighted by the following reader wisdom:

B H from Toronto, Canada writes: 'It's not a bug, it's a feature.'

Well said my friend.

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Seeking NSA Romantic Encounters; Not Public Humiliation

posted by:Jeremy Hessing-Lewis // 01:39 PM // September 15, 2006 // Commentary &/or random thoughts | Digital Identity Management | TechLife

After replies to a faked Craigslist personal posting were outed on a website this week, a minor controversy has been brewing over the legality of the posting and the impacts on online trust. The Globe and Mail covered the story here.

The personal ad described a 27 year old woman with long brown hair. In fact, the posting was by a Seattle area graphic designer named Jason Fortuny. He collected the replies, including contact information and images of men in various stages of undress, and posted them to a parody website. This breach of trust, while clearly unethical, doesn't seem to break any laws.

It will be interesting to see how this plays-out. At the very least, you'd think the victims would have a copyright argument. For now, it would be best to follow some age-old advice and "keep your pants on."

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We Have the Technology

posted by:Jeremy Hessing-Lewis // 03:48 PM // July 10, 2006 // Commentary &/or random thoughts | General | TechLife | Walking On the Identity Trail

Said the Gramophone, a particularly good MP3 blog, has posted a copy of We Have the Technology by Peter Ubu. I'll leave the explaining to the Gramophone, but I believe that this song is perfectly relevant to the IDTrail project.


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John Doe

posted by:Jeremy Hessing-Lewis // 02:08 PM // June 02, 2006 // Commentary &/or random thoughts | TechLife

Douglas Coupland's newest novel, JPod, features the usual assortment of quirky characters. One in particular is especially clever. His name is John Doe and he is obssessed with being unremarkable. In contrast to the other characters who subvert their bland cubicle environment with endless self-identifying customization, John is determined to be statistically average.

John's birth name is "crow well mountain juniper" (all lower case). He grew-up in a lesbian commune, was home-schooled until the age of fifteen, and never saw a tv-set until the age of twelve. His desire to be statistically normal is an attempt to counteract his "wacko upbringing."

His attempts at being normal are a brilliant jab at the way we identify ourselves in a consumer society. He drives a white Ford Taurus and is flattered when people tell him that it looks like a rental car. He keeps himself 9 pounds overweight (stastically average). His wardrobe consists of khakis and plain corporate golf shirts.

Essentially, his personality is defined by his desire to not have an identity. Hilarity ensues.

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Spread the Word -- Ottawa now hosts a "Copynight"

posted by:Ambrese Montagu // 10:14 AM // May 19, 2006 // Core Concepts: language and labels | Digital Activism and Advocacy | Digital Democracy: law, policy and politics | TechLife | Walking On the Identity Trail

Ottawa's first ever Copynight will be held at 6pm Tuesday May 23rd at The Royal Oak Pub (161 Laurier Avenue Eas, which is located on the north edge of the Ottawa University campus).

CopyNight is a monthly social gathering of people interested in restoring balance in copyright law. We meet over drinks once a month in many cities to discuss new developments and build social ties between artists, engineers, filmmakers, academics, lawyers, and many others. Everyone is welcome.

In future, Copynight's will be held on the 4th Tuesday of every month. To learn more or get on the mailing list, please email ottawa (at) copynight.org.

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Ctrl-Shift-Delete: Learn-it, Love-it, Live-it

posted by:Jeremy Hessing-Lewis // 04:59 PM // May 18, 2006 // Commentary &/or random thoughts | Digital Identity Management | TechLife

Clean-up after yourself.

For you privacy-loving web-surfers using Firefox as their browser, there’s a new command to learn: Ctrl-Shift-Delete. This little trick prompts a purge of your browser’s private data. It’ll be like you didn’t spend the day perusing the Internet’s best distractions. And as every employer will attest; a good record is a blank record.

While it is unclear whether a browser really needs to keep any personal data, the content collected seems to grow with every subsequent browser release. As it stands, you’re leaving a long, incriminating trail including your browsing history, saved form information, saved passwords, download history, cookies, cache, and a record of authenticated sessions. Although your body may have been sitting at your desk for the past 8 hours, your browser remembers where you’ve really been.

The fact that such a keyboard shortcut exists is worth noting. Software begins by making a feature available. Usually, this comes in the form of a button buried deep within the assorted menus of a program. Here, only an experienced user will be able to locate and use a program’s abilities. If the functionality proves popular, it migrates through the menus into locations of increasing prominence.

A select few functions prove worthy of a button shortcut. Even fewer receive their own keyboard command. This exclusive list includes the iconic “Save” (ctrl-s), “Copy” (ctrl-c), “Paste” (ctrl-v), and of course “Undo” (ctrl-z). And now, the Mozilla development team has institutionalized a command for privacy. Current versions of Internet Explorer don’t have anything close and it won’t be surprising if Microsoft decides not to follow suit with their release of IE 7.

As your work-day draws to an end and you clear your desk, don’t forget to clear your browser. Make a habit of keeping your private data…private.
Ctrl-Shift-Delete: Learn-it, Love-it, Live-it

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Watch what you type, or THEY will

posted by:Jeremy Hessing-Lewis // 10:22 AM // May 17, 2006 // Surveillance and social sorting | TechLife

Next time you type your password or send a lover an adjective-dense email, you may want to consider the intermediaries. If you're lucky enough to have a boss who doesn't care about your keystrokes, that doesn't mean even more surrepticious intermediaries don't have similar intentions. A new study suggests that spyware keystroke logging is on the rise. Just because you can't see your password, **********, doesn't mean nobody else can.

CNET: Study: Keystroke spying on the rise
CNET: Spying at work on the rise, survey says

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New PET: Self-destructing SMS

posted by:Chris Young // 02:12 PM // December 16, 2005 // TechLife

Here's a privacy enhancing technology: self-deleting text messages (BBC).

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New digital health-care technologies and privacy

posted by:Chris Young // 07:42 PM // November 15, 2005 // TechLife

Last month the Ottawa Citizen featured a number of articles in its "High Tech" section that will be of interest to those attentive to developments in the area of medical technologies that have potential impact on personal privacy.

The article "Health-care system getting wired" reported on the digitization of patient health-care records, and featured Dr. Khaled El Emam (Canada Research Chair in Electronic Health Information), whose research focuses specifically on how to ensure the privacy of personal health records. Dr. Emam will be presenting at the Electronic Health and Privacy Conference on November 30th in Ottawa.

In "Kit monitors blood sugar over Internet" the Citizen reports on a technology being trialed by March Healthcare which will automatically log the results of blood sugar tests as they are taken every day. As the article notes, this will allow "[a]ny problem cases [to] become immediately evident and red-flagged for instant follow-up by a nursing co-ordinator".

Jason Millar has already noted on this blog the technical possibility of fully automating this process such that the blood sugar monitor is implanted in the body instead of resting on a desk, as it does in this trial.

In the last of the articles I will mention, "Health records are going electronic", the newspaper focuses on a computer database infrastructure called Oacis, which is developed and marketed by an Ottawa firm called DINMAR, and has been used in the Ottawa hospital system since 1996.

Although the article goes into great detail about the newest version of Oacis, what caught my attention was the last paragraph, which discusses how Oacis complies with the international health data storage and transmission standards specified by an organization known as HL7.

I would suggest to privacy gurus that HL7 would be very happy to receive input from professionals and academics working in non-technical fields. They have local chapters in most countries.

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Sony's anonymous software agents are exposed

posted by:Jason Millar // 10:28 AM // November 04, 2005 // TechLife

Sony Music's latest attempt to "protect" copyrighted material installs an anonymous software agent on your computer. Amazingly, the company employed a design strategy commonly used by "spyware" programs, resulting in a predictable backlash from users. What's more, Sony doesn't seem to have included any mention of the agent in its end user agreement.

Read about some of the details (including a blurb on the privacy concerns raised by such technologies) here.

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On E-Government Authentication and Privacy

posted by:Stefan Brands // 01:40 PM // November 01, 2005 // Computers, Freedom & Privacy Conference (CFP) | Digital Activism and Advocacy | Digital Democracy: law, policy and politics | ID TRAIL MIX | Surveillance and social sorting | TechLife

Governments around the world are working to implement digital identity and access management infrastructures for access to government services by citizens and businesses. E-government has the potential of bringing major cost, convenience, and security benefits to citizens, businesses, and government alike. There are major architecture challenges, however, which cannot be solved by simply adopting modern enterprise architectures for identity management. Namely, these architectures involve a central server that houses the capability to electronically trace, profile, impersonate, and falsely deny access to any user. In the context of an e-government infrastructure, the privacy and security implications for citizens of such a panoptical identity architecture would be unprecedented.

By way of example, consider the implications of adopting the Liberty Alliance ID-FF architecture (the leading industry effort for so-called "federated" identity management) for e-government. The ID-FF describes a mechanism by which a group of service providers and one or more identity providers form circles of trust. Within a circle of trust, users can federate their identities at multiple service providers with a central identity provider. Users can also engage in single sign-on to access all federated local identities without needing to authenticate individually with each service provider. Liberty Alliance ID-FF leaves the creation of user account information at the service provider level, and in addition each service provider only knows each user under a unique “alias” (also referred to by ID-FF as “pseudonyms”). However, the user aliases in Liberty Alliance ID-FF are not pseudonyms at all: they are centrally generated and doled out by the identity provider, which acts in the security interests of the service providers.

While the Liberty Alliance ID-FF architecture may be fine for the corporate management of the identities of employees who access their corporate resources, it would have scary implications when adopted for government-to-citizen identity management. The identity provider and the service providers would house the power to electronic monitor all citizens in real time across government services. Furthermore, insiders (including hackers and viruses) would have the power to commit undetectable massive identity theft with a single press of a central button. Carving out independent “circles of trust” is not a solution: the only way to break out of the individual circle-of trust “silos” that would result would be to merge them into a “super” circle by reconciling all user identifiers at the level of the identity providers. This would only exacerbate the ID-FF privacy and security problems.

More generally, replacing local non-electronic identifiers by universal electronic identifiers has the effect of removing the natural segmentation of traditional activity domains; as a consequence, the damage that identity thieves can do is no longer confined to narrow domains, nor are identity thieves impaired any longer by the inherent slowdowns of a non-electronic identity infrastructure. At the same time, when the same universal electronic identifiers are relied on by a plurality of autonomous service providers in different domains, the security and privacy threats for the service providers no longer come only from wiretappers and other traditional outsiders: a rogue system administrator, a hacker, a virus, or an identity thief with insider status can cause massive damage to service providers, can electronically monitor the identities and visiting times of all clients of service providers, and can impersonate and falsely deny access to the clients of service providers.

On the legal side, the compatibility of modern enterprise identity architectures with data protection legislation and program statutes is highly questionable. Also, the adoption of enterprise identity architectures in the context of e-government would directly interfere with Article 8 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Specifically, any interference with privacy rights under Article 8 must do so to the minimum degree necessary. Enterprise identity architectures violate this requirement: far less intrusive means exist for achieving the objectives of e-government.

Specifically, over the course of the past two decades, the cryptographic research community has developed an array of privacy-preserving technologies that can be used as building blocks for e-government in a manner that simultaneously meets the security needs of government and the legitimate privacy and security needs of individuals and service providers. Relevant privacy-preserving technologies include digital credentials, secret sharing, private information retrieval, and privacy-preserving data mining.

By properly using privacy-preserving technologies, individuals can be represented in their interactions with service providers by local electronic identifiers. Service providers can electronically link their legacy account data on individuals to these local electronic identifiers, which by themselves are untraceable and unlinkable. As a result, any pre-existing segmentation of activity domains is fully preserved. At the same time, verifier-trusted authorities can securely embed into all of an individual’s local identifiers a unique “master identifier” (such as a random number). These embedded identifiers remain unconditionally hidden when individuals identify themselves on the basis of their local electronic identifiers, but their hidden presence can be leveraged by service providers for all kinds of security and data sharing purposes without introducing privacy problems. The privacy guarantees do not require users to rely on third parties - the power to link and trace the activities of a user across his or her activity domains resides solely in the hands of that user.

In the context of e-government, security and privacy are not opposites but mutually reinforcing, assuming proper privacy-preserving technologies are deployed. In order to move forward with e-government, it is important for government to adopt technological alternatives that hold the promise of multi-party security while preserving privacy.

For more information, interested readers are referred to my personal blog at www.idcorner.org.

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Secret tiny dots link print-outs to users

posted by:Mohamed Layouni // 01:05 PM // October 26, 2005 // TechLife

A research team led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently broke the code behind tiny tracking dots that some color laser printers secretly hide in every document.

The U.S. Secret Service admitted that the tracking information is part of a deal struck with selected color laser printer manufacturers, ostensibly to identify counterfeiters. However, the nature of the private information encoded in each document was not previously known.

The full Article can be found here.
For information on how to see and decode the dots, see this guide.

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Bluetooth Blues

posted by:Chris Young // 10:33 PM // September 01, 2005 // TechLife

Bluetooth is an exciting and promising technology for simplifying interaction between electronic devices of all kinds. Applications as diverse as connecting to wireless headsets, synchronizing data (which we need to do whether we like it or not), and even romance are all enabled by Bluetooth. However, it brings with it both inherent security concerns (as any networking technology does), and ones that come about from poor craftsmanship, as it were. This article, by an independent IT security analyst, gives a great overview of contemporary security concerns in Bluetooth devices. Among other things, it seems that a hacker equipped with any Linux-powered, Bluetooth-equipped laptop can force nearby mobile phones to send SMS messages without the phone owners knowing about it. As the article author remarks, what situation is a phone owner in if his or her phone sends a bomb threat to a local government office?

This page, by trifinite.org, displays a list of known Bluetooth vulnerabilities, and may be the most complete online. Among others, it details how a hacker can listen in on phone conversations being conducted over Bluetooth car-phone systems. This project from trifinite.org was also reported in this piece in the International Herald Tribune.

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Privacy and Identity Integrity Meets VOIP

posted by:Jason Millar // 09:15 PM // July 29, 2005 // TechLife

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) allows voice communications to be relayed over the internet rather than the established and somewhat (in)secure phone network. Given the increased number of security threats on the internet, voice communications over that medium seems like a risky business for anyone concerned with such things.

Phil Zimmermann, the man who introduced PGP to the world of email has demonstrated his latest venture--an encryption scheme for VOIP communications. Here's the article.

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Trailing Bread Crumbs Online

posted by:Jason Millar // 11:16 AM // June 29, 2005 // TechLife

Our smart worlds will automatically become smarter and more closely tailored to our individual needs in direct response to our own activities.

Andy Clark, Natural Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence

Andy Clark's prediction is realized in Google's new Personalized Search function that was released this week. Users can log onto the Personalized Search engine to perform regular Google searches. However, Google has designed a memory into its tool that keeps track of the kinds of topics you have searched for, in an attempt to modify future search results to better match your typical interests.

Here's an example. I logged into the system with my newly created Google account, and performed a search on "spam". Spam emails are a hot topic, which was reflected in the list returned by Google--everything from anti-spam programs to articles discussing attempts to increase legal actions against "spammers". I then performed a search on "meat", then one on "bologna", after which I re-entered the "spam" search. This time the top link was one to the company that produces the canned meat product "Spam". I also had quick access to sites dedicated to the wonders of Spam, including recipes and message boards containing everything Spam.

Google's Personalized Search, it would seem, learns about my interests and tendencies and modifies its results to suit them. Is this an example, as Andy Clark would argue, of a technology that acts transparently as an extension of me?

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Black Market in Stolen Credit Card Data Thrives on Internet

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 06:54 AM // June 21, 2005 // TechLife

From the New York Times
"Want drive fast cars?" asks an advertisement, in broken English, atop the Web site iaaca.com. "Want live in premium hotels? Want own beautiful girls? It's possible with dumps from Zo0mer." A "dump," in the blunt vernacular of a relentlessly flourishing online black market, is a credit card number. And what Zo0mer is peddling is stolen account information - name, billing address, phone - for Gold Visa cards and MasterCards at $100 apiece.

It is not clear whether any data stolen from CardSystems Solutions, the payment processor reported on Friday to have exposed 40 million credit card accounts to possible theft, has entered this black market. But law enforcement officials and security experts say it is a safe bet that the data will eventually be peddled at sites like iaaca.com - its very name a swaggering shorthand for International Association for the Advancement of Criminal Activity.

For despite years of security improvements and tougher, more coordinated law enforcement efforts, the information that criminals siphon - credit card and bank account numbers, and whole buckets of raw consumer information - is boldly hawked on the Internet. The data's value arises from its ready conversion into online purchases, counterfeit card manufacture, or more elaborate identity-theft schemes.

The online trade in credit card and bank account numbers, as well as other raw consumer information, is highly structured. There are buyers and sellers, intermediaries and even service industries. The players come from all over the world, but most of the Web sites where they meet are run from computer servers in the former Soviet Union, making them difficult to police.

Traders quickly earn titles, ratings and reputations for the quality of the goods they deliver - quality that also determines prices. And a wealth of institutional knowledge and shared wisdom is doled out to newcomers seeking entry into the market, like how to move payments and the best time of month to crack an account.

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that roughly 10 million Americans have their personal information pilfered and misused in some way or another every year, costing consumers $5 billion and businesses $48 billion annually.

"There's so much to this," said Jim Melnick, a former Russian affairs analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency who is now the director of threat development at iDefense, a company in Reston, Va., that tracks cybercrime. "The story that needs to be told is the larger, long-term threat to the American financial industry. It's a cancer. It's not going to kill you now, but slowly, over time."

No one is willing to estimate how many cards and account numbers actually make it to the Internet auction block, but law enforcement agents consistently describe the market as huge. Every day, at sites like iaaca.com and carderportal.org, pseudonymous vendors do business in an arcane slurry of acronyms.

Click here for the rest of the article.

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Networked individuals now an imminent reality

posted by:Chris Young // 10:39 AM // June 16, 2005 // TechLife

Ottawa's Zarlink Semiconductor recently announced a new chip designed for short-range, high-speed wireless communications between medical implants and external transceivers. Needless to say, once externalized the data is easily transferred over traditional Internet links.

This is surprising even for someone forecasting a time where real-time, networked monitoring of physiological states is common-place. It seems this will occur imminently.

"Physicians can use [this] technology to remotely monitor patient health without requiring regular hospital visits. For example, an ultra low-power RF transceiver in a pacemaker can wirelessly send patient health and device performance data to a bedside base station in the home. Data is then forwarded over the telephone or Internet to a physician's office, and if a problem is detected the patient goes to the hospital where the high-speed two-way RF link can be used to easily monitor and adjust device performance."

This is an important development because this sort of technology, apparently benign as described in this press release, can easily be used for non-emergency medical monitoring, or even non-health related monitoring of physiological states. Computers monitoring equipped individuals could notify third parties, in real-time, of such events as nicotine or drug ingestion, to present but one example.

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Technology as a Propaganda Model

posted by:Jason Millar // 07:22 PM // June 14, 2005 // TechLife

Almost all technologies act to constrain the various choices that we are able to make with regards to the use of that technology. Designers of automobile transmissions have embedded control mechanisms that prevent drivers from shifting into reverse while moving forward. Designers of the modern pop can have eliminated the old style of pull tab, which needed to be removed from the can prior to drinking from it. The new ones were introduced in order to prevent consumers from littering. Anyone over thirty will remember seeing those little metal strips on the street or sidewalk almost as often as cigarette butts. These examples both seem to be designs that restrict choice, through the use of embedded control mechanisms, as a means of preventing or eliminating a certain type of harmful behaviour when using the technology.

Those design choices might have been motivated primarily by the moral issues they act to promote—safe driving in the first case, cleaning up the environment in the second. In cases where there is a strong moral element associated with the design it is difficult to argue against the use of those technologies.

Other embedded control mechanisms are not necessarily driven by moral considerations. Take Digital Rights Management (DRM) for example. DRM is a technology being developed for use in digital media such as audio recordings, digital art or photographs, electronic books, and any other digital information that falls under the legal protection of copyright. DRM protects copyrighted material by attaching to it a piece of software that works in consort with your computer to detect and block any unauthorized attempt to copy or even open or play it. Although the companies who are developing this technology claim that DRM is primarily a response to alleged immoral behaviour (peer to peer file sharing), the scope of DRM technology being deployed today places extremely strict copy protection into copyrighted files, much stricter than in the past.

Given that the protection measures are so strong, one must ask whether those who are implementing DRM are primarily interested in the moral issue of piracy, or if there is some other primary concern motivating their actions. In the case of DRM examples of such concerns might include increasing control over copyright far beyond what was previously possible or, as Ian Kerr discusses in his most recent blog on this site ("HACKING@PRIVACY:
Why We Need Protection From The Technologies That Protect Copyright"), monitoring the behaviour patterns of consumers.

If embedded control mechanisms like DRM are primarily motivated by concerns other than moral ones, and have as their primary design function the restriction of a certain type of action, there is still a moral component to them. Restricting or preventing any subset of choices that an otherwise autonomous individual might make seems inherently tied to the larger issue of morality. But overriding moral autonomy with a technology that contains only a secondary consideration as its moral justification might not itself be morally justified.

Consider the case of the automobile transmission mentioned earlier. Trumping autonomy on the primary basis of passenger safety is probably justified. However, trumping autonomy on the basis of a secondary moral consideration, such as the prevention of piracy, might prove less tenable.

As such, designs should be scrutinized to ensure that the moral grounds for embedding control mechanisms—secondary ones in particular—are urgent enough to warrant their use.

Designed into pervasive social technologies, such as portable music players, and software such as Windows Media Player, embedded control mechanisms could take on an interesting social role. One interesting possibility is that the social function of such technologies is not to further a particular moral position (in the case of copyright infringement the moral aspect is arguably a thin one when compared to, say, the moral dilemma associated with break and enter or firearms proliferation—both discouraged by the use of locks as embedded control mechanisms). Rather, we might consider those technologies functioning more properly as propaganda mechanisms.

Mass media—the traditional playground of the propagandist—is typically seen delivering propaganda (used here in a value neutral sense) through messages such as news stories, posters, images, sounds, etc.. Indeed, the literature on propaganda focuses heavily on how language based messages are used to motivate people towards a certain type of action or belief. But our interactions with the technology of mass media, specifically our exposure to messages that can be delivered through a targeted use of embedded control mechanisms, should also be considered as a means to the same end.

In this sense embedded control mechanisms function primarily as a means of controlling not only behaviour, but also our understanding of the limits of responsible action, through repeated suggestion of the ‘only’ correct way to behave when interacting with such technology. These technologies, in combination with the strong traditional messages delivered via press releases and advertising, function as an essential component of the propaganda mechanism. Having a device that constantly reminds you not to burn music onto a CD, by preventing you from doing so, is not so different than placing that same message on a poster on the wall, or a billboard on the highway. It is simply more effective.

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posted by:Ian Kerr // 07:57 AM // June 10, 2005 // TechLife

one common conception of "privacy" is as a kind of "space" that enables intellectual consumption/exploration/achievement by allowing people to be "more or less inaccessible to others, either on the spatial, psychological or informational plane."

to the extent that privacy in this sense is of significant instrumental value, it was interesting to read an item in my inbox this morning from the register detailing a principal's decision to ban iPods in her school because their use "encourages kids to be selfish and lonely." according to the principal of the International Grammar School, "iPod-toting children were isolating themselves into a cocoon of solipsism."

ever since nicholas negroponte coined the concept of the "daily me" (referring to people's growing desire for only that information & news that pertained to them individually), much attention has been paid to network technologies and their ability to isolate rather than connect people.

after years of thinking about this, i still have no firm point of view on this subject -- it is interesting to note that the article on the iPod referred also to the Blog as a technology used by "ego-centric 'social minimizers'" -- but i do think it is worth raising the question whether these technologies are tools of that sort, or whether their use is better understood as a symptom of deeper social ills.

a penetrating example of the latter view is found in an image allan lightman portrays, in an angst ridden rail against the new technological age, in his book diagnosis. in the booming, buzzing confusion of technosociety, his characters would put on their headsets and blare music as the last resort means of acheiving intellectual solitude.

so ... where is the problem? and what is the solution?

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Group blasts Canada Revenue Agency over security lapse

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 03:06 PM // June 06, 2005 // TechLife

From the Canadian Press:
A taxpayers' lobby group is upset at what it describes as lax security at the Canada Revenue Agency.

John Williamson, of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, is responding to an audit that shows a handful of former agency employees had the ability to access sensitive case files long after they left their jobs.

The staff belonged to offices in the Atlantic region.

The security lapse involved identification codes and passwords that employees use to log into the agency's central computer.

Both electronic codes remained active within the agency's computers for months — sometimes years — after the employees left.

Williamson says Canada Revenue should have been more vigilant, especially since identity theft is such a huge issue these days.

He says the incident is bound to shake the confidence of taxpayers.

Despite the slip up, Canada Revenue says it can find no evidence that former employees actually had unauthorized access to the system.

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Hacking the Personal Area Network

posted by:Jason Millar // 10:37 AM // June 03, 2005 // TechLife

Innovations in wireless technology are spawning new implantable and wearable devices that will communicate with one another, resulting in the emergence of the Personal Area Network (PAN). Bluetooth, a wireless communication standard, is fast emerging as the means by which these devices will communicate since it is specifically designed for short-range wireless communication between small devices. Examples of Bluetooth devices of this sort include cochlear implants for the deaf, insulin pumps and blood glucose monitors for diabetics, and full body montioring systems that continuously monitor critical bodily functions and communicate the information to medical professionals. Other Bluetooth devices include cell phones, PDAs, headsets, notebook computers--all of which could be be communicating sensitive physiological data or controlling the associated physiological processes over the PAN.

Although the benefits of PAN devices are obvious they also increase the potential for harm to the person by virtue of the fact that they provide access to highly personal sets of data. Ian Kerr recently discussed some implications of PANs at a conference in Ottawa, during his presentation entitled "Still Feelin' 'icky': The Utopias of Conrad Chase, Kevin Warwick and other Digital Angels". Compromised security in the PAN could result in any range of problemtatic outcomes, such as an invasion of privacy, descrimination based on knowledge of physiological conditions, or the loss of control of physiological processes vital to the well-being of the individual. Imagine a hacker suddenly broadcasting audio into a cochlear implant or publishing the details of your personal medical conditions on the World Wide Web.

A recent security hole in Bluetooth technology was discovered by cryptographers in the UK, which allowed them to take control of a Bluetooth network (a PAN for all intents and purposes) and manipulate the communications within it. Combined with the potential that Bluetooth offers for locating and identifying a person solely based on the unique IDs of their PAN devices, the technology raises serious privacy concerns.

Hacking the PAN will not simply result in lost productivity or a trip to the store to buy the latest anti-virus software. Designers of Bluetooth devices, and members of the Bluetooth Special Interests Group need to be aware of the unique, potential risks, posed by PAN technology so that they can adopt design features that respect and strengthen individuals' privacy within the PAN.

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Blood-powered "vampire" fuel cells

posted by:Chris Young // 04:06 PM // May 28, 2005 // TechLife

So you thought implants were science fiction? vnunet.com reports that a Japanese research team has successfully developed a miniature power generation device that creates an electric current using human blood as the energy source. Used in implants, the current is "enough for simple processing and radio communication". The era of the 'network of people' will soon be here.

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Podcasting -- the next DRM battlefield?

posted by:Jason Millar // 09:10 PM // May 24, 2005 // TechLife

Heard about podcasting? If you haven't, Apple's recent announcement to support podcasting in it's upcoming release of iTunes will certainly thrust it into the mainstream vernacular.

Podcasting is two things. First, it's a completely new way of getting your audio published and distributed on the web, which takes advantage of the RSS feeds commonly used for text-based news subscriptions. Second, it is a way of downloading audio directly to a digital media player, such as an iPod, in a manner that is fundamentally different from the traditional solutions offered by KazAa, or Napster. The beauty of the system is that the user can simply subscribe to a syndicated podcasting feed, and the MP3s are downloaded and synchronized to the device automatically as they become published on the internet, via some software like ipodder.

Typical podcasts consist of homebrewed radio programs presented in an interview style. But sites like GarageBand.com have recently begun offering all of their music via podcasting.

For a much more complete description of the podcasting universe, check out this article about the inventor of podcasting, Adam Curry, and this podcasting blog.

A recent list of endangered devices published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation lists the iPod among those targeted by anti copyright infringement laws proposed in the US Congress. Given that podcasting allows the widespread distribution of audio, it will certainly be subject to the ongoing debate surrounding Digital Rights Management, as it offers a new method of MP3 distribution that is quite different from the traditional solutions. However, it also represents a potential widespread "uninfringing" technology, given that mainstream audio producers such as the CBC are beginning to podcast their content.

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RFID/Fingerprint Enabled DVD Players

posted by:Todd Mandel // 05:30 PM // May 20, 2005 // TechLife

From Wired:

Researchers in Los Angeles are developing a new form of piracy protection for DVDs that could make common practices like loaning a movie to a friend impossible.
University of California at Los Angeles engineering professor Rajit Gadh is leading research to turn radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags into an extremely restrictive form of digital rights management to protect DVD movies.

Read the full article at: http://www.wired.com/news/digiwood/0,1412,67556,00.html

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What your playlist says about you

posted by:Marty // 06:36 PM // May 12, 2005 // TechLife

Listening In: Practices Surrounding iTunes Music Sharing, presented at the 2005 Computer-Human Interaction Conference, details the results of recent study offering some informative insight into the nuisances and dynamics of behavioural representation. The paper speaks to how music playlists in general, play a role in establishing and portraying characteristics of ourselves to those around us, including co-workers. Furthermore, the study establishes that sharing digital music can lead to strong group identities.

Of interest to Blog*on*nymity, is the study’s revelations on the nexus between privacy and the sharing features of music playlists.

Those who used iTunes as a personal music library prior to the version release that enabled sharing upgraded their versions of iTunes and started sharing immediately. The rest enabled sharing as soon as they started using iTunes; sharing, as it was seen, was part of the “ethos” of the application


By default, one’s own music sharing is turned off; users must explicitly turn it on. One participant (P9) reported that if his music had been automatically shared, he would have strongly resented it and turned it off. Giving users control over whether they share their music from the start respected users’ privacy concerns in sharing.

This study adds another dimension to the notion that technology alters the way humans relate to one another, in large part due to their online or digital identity. Thus, the above statement regarding control exemplifies that control is a central aspect to how one might approach the reales of availability of one's own personal information or characteristics in the online world.

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RFID-tagged GPRS-tracked Rental Cars

posted by:Mohamed Layouni // 01:11 AM // April 16, 2005 // TechLife

Zipcar, a rental car company based in Boston, is offering its customers a series of RFID-tagged vehicles that can be tracked and controlled (e.g., disabling ignition) remotely with very high precision. What is particular about these cars is that they are constantly communicating with some central server of the company, e.g., transmitting data about the car's location or receiving information about which customer will be turning up next and when...

Now if you're wondering about the selling idea. Guess what? Zipcar is "green"!! and "green" sells pretty good these days!

More on this at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/4446271.stm

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How To Blog Anonymously

posted by:Alison Gardner Biggs // 04:55 PM // April 14, 2005 // TechLife

The EFF has published a useful guide on keeping your blog - where personal or political - an anonymous or private space. Whether you are trying to blog anonymously to expose corruption or other sensitive topics, or merely want to be able to control who can read your thoughts and information, this short guide will give you some good tips.

The link: How To Blog Anonymously.

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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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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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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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Security firm trashes customer e-mails

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 02:08 PM // March 04, 2005 // 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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Bank Loses Tapes of Records of 1.2 Million With Visa Cards

posted by:Jennifer Manning // 05:20 PM // February 28, 2005 // TechLife

Bank of America lost computer backup tapes containing personal information about 1.2 million federal employees with Visa charge cards issued by the bank. The tapes were part of a shipment in late December from a bank facility to another location meant to house backups.

Click here for the NY Times article.

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Fun for a Friday afternoon

posted by:Daphne Gilbert // 02:58 PM // February 11, 2005 // TechLife

Here is an interesting peek at what the future could hold... A data-mining nightmare for a man who only wanted to order bad pizza!

Daphne Gilbert

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Creative Commons in Peer-to-Peer software

posted by:Jason Millar // 02:36 PM // February 10, 2005 // TechLife

An interesting news item regarding the integration of Creative Commons Licensing in a p2p software package.

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Know thy blogger

posted by:Marty // 07:05 AM // February 09, 2005 // TechLife

A blog post about blogs....

This article offers an interesting overview of some of the issues regarding employees who blog about the companies that they work for. Of interest are the ramifications when the veil of anonymity, offered by blogs, is lifted as often the employee gets fired. Is this a matter of free speech? Or is it a matter of being smart and thinking before you blog?

Click here for the article.

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Trusted Computing: An Introduction

posted by:Jason Millar // 02:40 PM // January 27, 2005 // TechLife

Trusted Computing (TC) is one of the hottest and most controversial topics in computer hardware and software design today. The thrust of this initiative is being spearheaded by the largest and most influential software and hardware companies in the world (see the Trusted Computing Web Site for a complete list).

This is a link to an introductory article that describes the basics of TC, and provides an overview of some of the controversial issues related to TC. EPIC also produced a piece on TC (they have some good links too) that can be found here.

I found this article very informative and relatively balanced. I'm sure it will spark some interest in the group.

I've also included a general TC FAQ. More radical TC interpretations can also be found including this one at NewsForge.

Trusted Computing is also closely linked to the Digital Rights Management technologies outlined by Alex Cameron, as it is a strong enabling and enhancing technology for anyone interested in implementing a DRM scheme.

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posted by:Ian Kerr // 04:15 PM // January 21, 2005 // Digital Activism and Advocacy | Digital Identity Management | TechLife

just before the winter break, a few of us from on the identity trial and cippic were contacted by folks at ciphire labs about a new crypto product that sounded too good to be true.

ciphire mail, "a new and soon-to-be-open-source application," promises strong and user-friendly e-mail authentication and encryption.

in addition to promising to release the source code, ciphire is free for individual users, nonprofit organizations and the press. it is used in conjunction with standard e-mail programs and operates almost invisibly in the background, encrypting and decrypting e-mail and digitally signing each message to confirm its source.

i have been using it, seamlessly, for about a month now and like it very much! the folks at ciphire have been very generous with us and have provided excellent service and support (though there really isn't much to support, once up and running!!)

for those who might be interested in reading further on this, check out this interesting story on ciphire in wired from yesterday.

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posted by:Ian Kerr // 08:54 AM // // TechLife

since sometime around the middle of july -- when attorney general of mexico verichiped himself and 160 of his staff -- the idea of implanting microchips in human beings has been creeping into the mainstream.

since then, applied digital solutions, maker of the verichip, has received approval from the federal food and drug administration to market the chip for medical applications in the US. applied digital has, more recently, signed major distribution agreements in US and ASIA that promise to make the implantable human microchip standard medical fare.

there are, of course, several layers of privacy implications stemming from all of this. in a recent presentation before a committee of the Department of Health and Human Services, on the identity trail partner EPIC offered a Four Tier Framework for RFID Regulation for medical information

some of these issues and others related to the verichip will be further discussed at a conference in ottawa on march 4/5 called The Concealed "I": Anonymity, Identity and the Prospect of Privacy.

stay tuned for more on this interesting and important subject !!

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The dollars and cents of fingerprints

posted by:Marty // 09:54 AM // January 19, 2005 // TechLife

TechNewsWorld has an interesting article on the use of fingerprints, and their value to the business of biometrics.

In 2004, fingerprinting accounted for US$367 million of the $1.2 billion biometric companies generated in worldwide revenue, according to market research firm International Biometric Group. This time-tested technique has gained popularity because it is the most mature biometric system. As use has expanded beyond law enforcement, pricing has dropped. "A fingerprint scanner costs only $50 to $100," according to David Ostlund, a consultant with International Biometric Group.

The article can be found here: http://www.technewsworld.com/story/39467.html

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