"It's only metadata," is the catch-all excuse for mass surveillance -- after all, if spies aren't capturing what your message says why should you care if they're getting who sent it, what its subject line is, where you and the sender are, and everything you do before and after receiving the message? Read the rest
Michael writes, "Watching Australia's Attorney-General try to explain why tracking Australians' web histories is not such a big deal resembles listening to a dirty joke told by a ten-year-old, i.e. it leaves one with the distinct impression the speaker is trying to seem like they understand something they've only heard about secondhand." Read the rest
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has rounded up the five most discredited arguments advanced by apologists for NSA spying, including "The NSA has Stopped 54 Terrorist Attacks with Mass Spying"; Just collecting call detail records isn’t a big deal"; "There Have Been No Abuses of Power"; "Invading Privacy is Okay Because It’s Done to Prevent Terrorist Attacks"; and "There’s Plenty of Oversight From Congress, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and Agency Watchdogs." Each of these claims is meticulously debunked in the post. Read the rest
The European Court of Justice, the highest court in the EU, has invalidated the European Parliament's Data Retention Directive, which required phone companies and ISPs to store your clicks, email subjects and to/from info, your location data, and other sensitive "metadata" for up to two years. The ECJ cited the UN Human Rights Committee's condemnation of this sort of data-retention and its call for the USA to halt its surveillance. We have Digital Rights Ireland and AK Vorrat Austria to thank for the ruling. Read the rest
The Intercept, the "fearless, adversarial journalism" venture launched by Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media, launched with a big boom today.
Lead story on the site right now, which is https by default (and straining under launch day load at the moment) explores "The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program."
The Intercept will initially focus on NSA stories based on documents provided by Edward Snowden, and this is one such story. Read the rest
The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed 22 declarations in First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA. The briefs are from a wide variety of groups -- environmentalists, gun-rights activists, religious groups, human-rights workers, drug-policy advocates -- who all have one thing in common: "hey each depend on the First Amendment's guarantee of free association. EFF argues that if the government vacuums up the records of every phone call—who made the call, who received the call, when and how long the parties spoke—then people will be afraid to join or engage with organizations that may have dissenting views on political issues of the day." Read the rest
Metadata is one of those things that is so important, it becomes easy to forget about. We often collect metadata without thinking about it. When we don't collect it — or if we collect it in a sloppy manner — we notice very quickly that something has gone wrong. But when someone says the word "metadata", a large number of us go, "the what now?" And start trying to remember what that word means before we make ourselves sound dumb in conversation.
Metadata is really just information about information — it helps us organize, find, and standardize the things we know and want to know. At the Information Culture blog Bonnie Swoger offers some Christmas-themed examples that will help you remember what metadata is, help you understand why it's such a big deal, and improve your ability to do metadata right.
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If you stumbled across this list on the web you might be able to guess what it was, but you couldn’t be sure. It would also be difficult to find this list again if you were looking for it. The list creator might find this pretty useful, but if he or she shared it with others, we would want some added information to help the new user understand what he or she was looking at: this is metadata.
Metadata for this data file:
Who created the data: Santa Claus, North Pole. An email address would be nice. This way we have some contact information in case we need clarification. Title: “My List” isn’t a title that is conducive to finding the file again.
ICanStalkU is a twitterbot Twitter-analyzing service that seeks out Twitter users who transmit their location in the photos they tweet and generates responses like "ICanStalkU was able to stalk @XXXXXXXXXX at http://maps.google.com/?q=35.5371666667,139.510166667," with the stated purpose of "Raising awareness about inadvertent information sharing."
I generally like the idea of helping people understand that their software may be disclosing information about themselves that they're not aware of, but I find this method a little tiresome. On a few occasions, I've deliberately turned on location data when sending out an image (for example, when tweeting an image of a public event or artwork and wanting to conveniently attach a location to the tweet so others can find it) only to get chided (not by bots, but by other Twitter users) who sent words to the effect of, "Some privacy advocate you are! Why are you sending location data with your images?"
I've also been nagged by someone's twitterbot that wanted to tell me off for including my email address in a tweet, because the author had decided that this would make me more vulnerable to spam (I have one email address and it's been public for about 15 years now -- there's no spambot that doesn't know it by now). It's nice that people want to help others understand the wider context of their actions, but there's a fine line between helping and nagging.
Adding location data to a photo of something in public -- a protest, a spectacle, a store -- isn't necessarily a privacy breach. Read the rest