I am an analyst, consultant, inventor and iconoclast specialising in digital identity & privacy; founded the Lockstep Group (Australia); determined to make digital identity simpler http://lockstep.com.au
Forgive my nitpicking on an article that is strongly pro-privacy, but there is a statement that seems to conflate privacy ans anonymity which I'd like to correct.
"[The point] Driving in public is, by definition, not a private activity ... can't really be argued. Your expectation of privacy pretty much ends when you start traveling on public streets."
I disagree. Privacy is not about hiding. We can and should maintain expectations of privacy when we go about our business in public. Privacy is largely about restraint; one of the fundamental principles of data privacy is that Personal Information ought not to be collected if it is not needed for an express and transparent purpose. The over-collection of number plate data by ANPR systems is a classic sort of systemic privacy breach, and an object lesson in the value and risks of metadata. When I drive in public, I do have an expectation of privacy, insofar as my movements are concerned. I don't expect my trips to be recorded over long periods of time, and indexed by number plate.
It's a strange thing. When the Internet goes right, it's a disruptive, radical medium utterly unlike anything that anyone has ever seen before ever. But when it goes wrong, well, the Internet is just like a letter.
Posting to an OSN is not closely like writing a letter. This particular OSN has led people to believe that when they post to a circle, their comms will remain in that circle. To break an undertaking as to how teh OSN will handle the personal information of a user is a privacy breach, regardless of whether or not that user is perhaps a bit naive, or whether there might be umpteen other ways for information to leak.
Ok, so I am not going to argue that e-mails can't be fowarded. Of course people should assume that anything they write to the Net can be let loose (and so I have a personal e-mail policy to never write anything, ever, that I couldn't live with being splashed on a billboard, and that habit has saved my bacon several times).
The privacy issue highlighted here is not totally bogus. I continue to be shocked by the barely disguised loathing that so many netizens have for privacy advocates. Please, think about the issue for a few minutes before flaming anyone who feels that perhaps Google hasn't lived up to its privacy promises (and please allow for people's skepticism in these early days of 'plus' given Google's troubled and two faced history).
Privacy is fundamantally about control. Information privacy laws and principles (in places that legislate them) are concerned with protecting individuals against intrusions by government and businesses. The principles call for minimising the collection of Personal Information (collecting no more than is necessary), telling users what is being collected, from where and for what purpose, and undertaking to safeguard information once collected, in particular promising to not put it to unforseen secondary uses.
In the Google+ case, it's great that they are making the circle GUI so clear and overt. It's terrific that they provide for limits on how information put into one circle can be disclosed to other circles. But if the system allows those limits to be circumvented, in effect misleading people about the limits that have actuallu been put on their information, then that's a breach of privacy.
It's obviously not for Google to make absolute promises about disclosure. Clearly information can be cut & paste from a Google+ account by a disrespectful account holder and sent on by e-mail or whatever. So I don't say the Google+ weakness identified here represents a grievous privacy breach. But nevetheless, it should be taken seriously, because privacy is about control and promising to provide controls.
Techdirt has not posted any stories submitted by Stephen Wilson Lockstep.