[Geowanking] On geo privacy policies

Dan R. Greening greening at bigtribe.com
Thu Jun 29 03:39:17 PDT 2006

Just a comment on advance policy work on geoprivacy, like Geopriv:  I  
think developing privacy laws and policies in a vacuum is a recipe  
for disaster.  Europe adopted some seemingly harmless geoprivacy laws  
back in 2002 (OK I howled about it then, including to the EU privacy  
czar, but no one cared).  When last I checked, EU law precludes  
things like geography-based personalization, like the stuff Nathan  
Eagle does, because you cannot store location-tracking information  
with user-identification in the EU ... like EVER... even if you  
inform the consumer.  A whole class of applications is now verboten  

Rather I think we should adopt the "agile" methods: being reasonable  
about privacy as companies, describing company privacy policies  
explicitly on web sites and so forth, testing applications and  
policies out in the market, and refining.  Sue the companies if they  
fail to implement the policies they claim they have.

There are many reasons for doing it this way, but one reason is that  
people and society adapt to technology; it isn't just technology  
having to adapt to "the way people will always think".

For example, I am on the middle-aged side and I have watched society  
adapt to the "privacy invasion" that I think is almost inevitable  
with the Internet.  While I myself am a "transparent society" type,  
thinking it is fine if everyone knows my personal life (as long the  
behavior of authorities is also transparent), I am still amazed at  
how open my younger peers are as a whole class of people.  From  
Facebook to MySpace, there is plenty of evidence that people are  
revealing more personal aspects of themselves in a more public way  
than ever before, fearlessly.  I think this openness provides for a  
more rational and human-diversity respecting society, and celebrate  
it.  And yet, when I reveal information about myself in this same  
way, it just feels a little weird.

Don't get me wrong; I think people should be able to choose to turn  
location-tracking on and off whenever they want.  It's just that when  
you try to develop laws or broadly-applied policies in advance of  
technology, you often fail.

I guess a great example is P3P "Platform for Privacy Preferences",  
which is the "encoded privacy policy" system standardized by W3C and  
embedded in IE.  It is largely ignored today, and the consumer  
doesn't even know it is there.  I mean the consumer can turn on-and- 
off access to different web sites based on the encoded policy, but  
who actually does this?  I think about the vast effort put behind  
this P3P technology in the late 90s and think it was just a huge waste.

Dan R. Greening, Ph.D.,  CEO BigTribe Corporation,  http:// 

On Jun 28, 2006, at 8:00 PM, Andrew Turner wrote:

>> At the same time, the sociotechnical problems that have long been  
>> expected
>> from these systems—privacy invasion, privacy confusion, LBSpam,  
>> data-quality
>> control issues—are not yet real on a large scale, however well- 
>> characterized
>> they may be. This is partly because LBS developers have adopted  
>> successful
>> design patterns from other "read/write web" contexts, but also  
>> because the
>> user base is just not that large or diverse yet.
> THis seems like just the time to start developing standards that make
> sense and look to the future. Lets not design another static HTML,
> that then has to wait 10 years for Javascript to make it dynamic
> (without flash). There isn't "lock-in" yet, so we can develop GeoPriv,
> anti-map-spam, etc.

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