For the people whose data was leaked, many of whom were readily identifiable, this will be cold comfort.
Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt announced today that he thinks the greatest danger to people’s privacy is not from leaks of people’s data as happened earlier this week to AOL users but rather from government snooping.
I have always worried the query stream is a fertile ground for governments to snoop on the people.
This is a very valid argument and it has to be said that it is definitely in Google’s best economic interest to ensure that no-one can access their massive databases of saved searches. The same cannot be said for Irish ISPs and telcos who are being tasked with keeping three years of log files on all their customers. There is almost no incentive for them to secure this data – it is nothing but a dead cost for them and one they wish would go away. This data will more than likely be leaked and sold time and time again by everyone from crooked GardaÃ (the Irish police) to minimum wage call centre employees.
Having said that no lock is uncrackable and if someone wants to get at Google’s databases badly enough, they will find a way. The easiest way to thwart this is not to retain the data!
Tom McGurk hosted an interesting debate on privacy last week with representatives of Digital Rights Ireland and the data protection commissioner last week (shame his show has finished and Ryan Tubridy has returned!).
One thing which disappointed me was the number of respondents to the show who made comments along the lines of “I haven’t done anything wrong, the government are welcome to look over all my records”
Bruce Schneier counters this fallacy very effectively when he says:
Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.
Two proverbs say it best: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? (“Who watches the watchers?”) and “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, “If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.” Watch someone long enough, and you’ll find something to arrest — or just blackmail — with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies — whoever they happen to be at the time.
Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.
Via Bernard and Damien comes news that Digital Rights Ireland is going to challenge the constitutionality of an Irish law which mandates telcos operating in Ireland to retain the details of all electronic traffic for 3 years.
This data can be requested from the telcos by the Gardai (Ireland’s police force) without a court order if the GardaÃ are satisfied that it might be useful in the prevention of a (not limited to serious) crime.
When you consider that your mobile phone is constantly broadcasting your location under current legislation you are, when carrying one, effectively wearing a tracking device for the GardaÃ (one with a three year memory).
Support Digital Rights Ireland in this battle. Let everyone you know, know about this and head on over to the Digital Rights Ireland support page and lend them some support.
The interview was fascinating, and should be compulsory listening for any Irish blogger. TJ informed me that everything published on a blog is automatically considered defamatory in the eyes of the law, if reported as such (guilty until proven innocent anyone?), until the blogger can satisfactorily prove to a jury that it is indeed true!
TJ also spoke about how copying music from legally purchased CDs is against the law, the pointlessness of national ID cards in terms of national security, and the governments position on data retention.
See below a list of the questions I asked TJ and the times in the interview that I asked them:
- What is DRI – what is its raison d’etre? – 0:21
- Why is there such a difference between our rights in the offline and online world? – 0:56
- What sparked you to start this up Digital Rights Ireland? – 1:36
- Digital Rights Ireland isn’t formally launched yet? 2:18
- Who do you represent/speaking on behalf of? – 2:39
- If you copy songs from legally purchased CDs onto your iPod or mp3 player, are you breaking the law? – 4:03
- In terms of blogging and podcasting, where do you see DRI fitting in? – 5:58
- What’s the function of the Press Council going to be? – 7:06
- As a blogger, who do I need protection from? – 7:35
- If I make a post about XYZ co. claiming dodgy practices on their behalf, what is the mechanism of action? – 9:17
- So, they can either try to drag you to court or they can take your site offline? – 10:25
- Of course, if you have a backup, you can get your site up on another host…? – 12:35
- Could you just get a summons without a cease and desist? – 13:29
- If you get a summons, can you put your hands up at that point? – 14:14
- And it doesn’t matter that what you wrote is true? – 14:29
- So, even if you have copied the article from a reputable news source, they will go after you because you are the ‘low hanging fruit’? – 15:16
- In a defamation case, if it goes your way, are the costs always awarded against you? – 16:01
- Is free legal aid available to bloggers? – 17:06
- Is there such a thing as anti-defamation insurance? – 17:53
- It seems that in defamation cases it is the person with the bigger resources who calls the tune… – 19:08
- Why is that? – 20:14
- Why are defamation cases heard by jury? – 21:09
- Why isn’t it the case that the plaintiff must prove that they have been defamed? 21:59
- I assume this is the same for podcasting also? – 23:26
- Does DRI have a position on the passing of data by EU airlines to the US government? – 24:30
- In three years time the government will know where I was today even if I can’t remember because of mobile phone data retention laws? – 26:05
- So, call centre operatives for mobile operators will have access to three years of my data? – 28:53
- Do DRI have a position on biometric passports? – 29:21
- Is it a valid argument that national ID cards give greater security? – 30:28
- Why do governments want to introduce compulsory ID cards then? – 32:02
- What other things are coming down the line that we should be aware of? – 33:30
- When is the launch of Digital Rights Ireland? – 36:09
- Whats the website of Digital Rights Ireland? – 36:29
You can download the full interview here 8.4mb mp3.
Well the Tech Camp Ireland meet-up is over and it was a great day. Kudos to Piaras and Ed for organising it. Some of the interesting talks that I attended were given by Darren Barefoot on (un)marketing and Digital Rights Ireland on our lack of digital rights in Ireland (think mandatory 3 year data retention, DRM, mobile phone tracking etc.)!
My own talk was titled “Increasing traffic: How to Promote your blog / web business” and a pdf copy is available for download here.
My talk was also recorded by Gavin Byrne of NearFM (the first radio station in Ireland to PodCast!) to be PodCast so when I get an uri for that I will update this post with those details.
Interesting observation from Tech Camp – I counted 8 laptops – 5 of which were macs. If Apple has only 5% of the market, how does that work?
The podCast of my talk is now available here