Thu, 21 May 2009

Mobile phones, tracking, data remanence, dataveillance and privacy - updates

Mobile phone tracking

The cost of having your movements tracked by your university? A free iPhone. The School of Social Informatics at Tokyo-based university Aoyama Gakuin is giving students free iPhones that will be 'used as a tracking device with which the university can control if its students are physically on campus or not (the main goal is to prevent cheating during roll calls).'

Last month I wrote about the mobile phone as self-inflicted surveillance. If you don't carry this voluntary electronic tag, then you must have something to hide. Frank Stajano, a senior lecturer at in the Computer Laboratory at University of Cambridge who was involved with developing the Active Badge system at ORL twenty years ago has just written an article on location privacy issues.

Data remanence and information accountability

The security research team in the Computer Laboratory at University of Cambridge ran an experiment to test what happens when data deleted from the cloud. They 'found that most [of 16 social-networking, blogging, and photo-sharing web sites] failed to remove image files from their photo servers after they were deleted from the main web site. It’s often feared that once data is uploaded into “the cloud,” it’s impossible to tell how many backup copies may exist and where, and this provides clear proof that content delivery networks are a major problem for data remanence.' The issue of data take-down is being looked into by the W3C Social Web Incubator Group.

Data take-down is only one tactic addressing a larger issue, and one that is not working well as the Cambridge research has shown. An interesting and more general approach is one based on information accountability. See my post Forgetting. Consequences. Bruce Schneier also posted a useful essay on Privacy in the Age of Persistence.


Earlier this week... Making location data an integral part of user experience and having user's data reside in the cloud, with the mobile device acting as a cache, were two key directions participants to the Mobile User Experience (MEX09) conference saw the industry moving to. The mobile industry has to take much more responsibility for the dataveillance and data remanence scenarios it is creating.

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