Tag Archive | Information

The Information Revolution Gets Political

by Joseph S. Nye, Project Syndicate, Jan 9, 2013

“… it would be a mistake to “over-learn” the lessons that the Arab revolutions have taught about information, technology, and power. While the information revolution could, in principle, reduce large states’ power and increase that of small states and non-state actors, politics and power are more complex than such technological determinism implies.

In the middle of the twentieth century, people feared that computers and new means of communications would create the kind of central governmental control dramatized in George Orwell’s 1984. And, indeed, authoritarian governments in China, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere have used the new technologies to try to control information. Ironically for cyber-utopians, the electronic trails created by social networks like Twitter and Facebook sometimes make the job of the secret police easier.”

For full text of this thought provoking article, please visit The Information Revolution Gets Political by Joseph S. Nye – Project Syndicate.


Protecting Location Privacy Against Inference Attacks

Kazuhiro Minami and Nikita Borisov, 2010. Protecting location privacy against inference attacks. In Proceedings of the 9th annual ACM workshop on Privacy in the electronic society (2010), pp. 123-126.

GPS-enabled mobile devices are a quickly growing market and users are starting to share their location information with each other through services such as Google Latitude. Location information, however, is very privacy-sensitive, since it can be used to infer activities, preferences, relationships, and other personal information, and thus access to it must be carefully protected. The situation is complicated by the possibility of inferring a users’ location information from previous (or even future) movements. We argue that such inference means that traditional access control models that make a binary decision on whether a piece of information is released or not are not sufficient, and new policies must be designed that ensure that private information is not revealed either directly or through inference. We provide a formal definition of location privacy that incorporates an adversary’s ability to predict location and discuss possible implementation of access control mechanisms that satisfy this definition. To support our reasoning, we analyze a preliminary data set to evaluate the accuracy of location prediction.

To track down this article, visit CiteULike: Protecting location privacy against inference attacks.

Location Privacy: Is Privacy in Public a Contradiction in Terms?

We would like to invite you to read Geodata Policy’s first guest blog posting by Robert Gellman. This article is timely given the update of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and the recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report, Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change, which highlights the sensitivety of “precise geolocation data” (p. 61). Robert Gellman is a privacy and information policy consultant in Washington, DC: http://www.bobgellman.com/.

Is Privacy in Public a Contradiction in Terms?

Robert Gellman, Privacy and Information Policy Consultant

February 21, 2011

Is there such a thing as privacy in a public space?  When you walk down the street, anyone can observe you, make notes about your location, appearance, and companions, and even take your picture.  If so, then it would seem that you have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

However, most people would be unhappy if they found themselves followed all day.  For most of human existence, this type of surveillance was impractical because of the great expense of following someone around.

This is a good place to pause and say that this is a short essay and not a law journal article.  The law of surveillance is complex, and the answers can be different if the person doing the surveillance is a government agent, an employer, or an average person, or if you’re taking pictures or recording conversations.

Is privacy in public a case of the irresistible force meeting the immoveable object?  Should your location privacy deserve some protection even when you are in public?

These questions are much harder to answer today because of technology.  It’s cheap to track people in public today.  There’s no need to pay a private detective.  Technology does it.  First on the list are cell phones.  Your cell phone broadcasts your location constantly to a cell phone tower, and your provider knows where you are.  Cameras are everywhere, taking pictures in malls, parking lots, building corridors, on the street, at red lights, and on the highway.  Facial recognition software is getting better all the time.  Photos placed on the Internet can be scanned to identify individuals as well as the date and GPS coordinates where the photos were taken.  Digital signage in stores and elsewhere can record behavior, approximate age, gender, and ethnicity, and can sometimes identify individuals using a variety of devices.  I recommend a pioneering report on digital signage by my colleague Pam Dixon.  It’s at the World Privacy Forum website.

Even though not all the technological and organizational links are yet in place, it’s not hard to envision the possibility that, in the near future, every action you take outside your home may be observed and recorded by someone.  This is more or less what happens today online, where there is a good chance that some website or advertiser (and probably many more than one) records every site you visit, every page and ad you see, and every click you make.

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RFF Value of Information Workshop Report Released

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The Value of Information: Methodological Frontier and New Applications for Realizing Social Benefit

by Molly Macauley and Ramanan Laxminarayan,  Resources for the Future, Published August 2010

This report highlights the major conclusions and outcomes from a workshop held June 28–29, 2010 at Resources for the Future in Washington, DC, on methodological frontiers and new applications of valuing information and its social benefit. The participants provided answers to a series of questions: What is meant by “value of information”? When does information have value? What are state-of-the-practice methods to ascribe value to information? Participants also identified steps to ascribe, measure, and communicate value.

The workshop was distinctive in serving as the first multi-day, in-depth meeting to convene experts in the two disparate communities of social science and Earth science to identify and critique state-of-the-practice methods for ascribing value and societal benefit to information. The workshop outputs include specific recommendations and actions to enhance and further demonstrate the value of information from public investments, particularly those in Earth science applications.

A main finding is that investment in Earth observations confers many benefits but a lack of tools and resources has caused these benefits to be less well measured and communicated than warranted. The report includes suggestions attendees offered as next steps to enhance modeling, evaluation, and communication of the array of benefits.

Report PDF can be found at: http://www.rff.org/Publications/Pages/PublicationDetails.aspx?PublicationID=21266

Interestingly, one participant of the workshop remarked on “the difference between public and private sector perspectives.  In the public sector (and academia), the primary questions seem to concern the overall value of information.  To be useful in the private sector, such questions must be augmented by knowledge of how that value is allocated throughout the supplier-customer chain.”

For commentary by one of the workshop’s steering committee members, Bill Hooke, visit his blog posting Knowing What the Earth Will Do Next? Priceless.

**Also, check out the comment posted by Bill Gail, another workshop steering committee member,  by clicking the comment link right under the title at the very top of the post.

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