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"Reality Mining" Resets the Privacy Debate 209

Posted by kdawson
from the macnealy-was-prophetic dept.
An anonymous reader sends us to the NYTimes for a sobering look at the frontiers of "collective intelligence," also called in the article "reality mining." These techniques go several steps beyond the pedestrian version of "data mining" with which the Pentagon and/or DHS have been flirting. The article profiles projects at MIT, UCLA, Google, and elsewhere in networked sensor research and other forms of collective intelligence. "About 100 students at MIT agreed to completely give away their privacy to get a free smartphone. 'Now, when he dials another student, researchers know. When he sends an e-mail or text message, they also know. When he listens to music, they know the song. Every moment he has his Windows Mobile smartphone with him, they know where he is, and who's nearby.' ... Indeed, some collective-intelligence researchers argue that strong concerns about privacy rights are a relatively recent phenomenon in human history. ... 'For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew,' Dr. Malone said. 'In some sense we're becoming a global village. Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly.'"
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"Reality Mining" Resets the Privacy Debate

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  • by flerchin (179012)

    I'd do it for a sony experia x1, or htc touch pro. If it became too obtrusive, I could always buy my own phone and walk away from it. I doubt I would. Of course, if this were forced on me, I would effect armed resistance. But for a free sweet phone.....

  • by Ash.D.Giles (1278606) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @03:41PM (#25936091)
    Isn't territorial behaviour a precursor to privacy? I mean, the idea of "Stay out of my room, I'm getting dressed" can't be that far off "Stay out of my burrow or I bite you, you strange animal"
    • "Isn't territorial behaviour a precursor to privacy? I mean, the idea of "Stay out of my room, I'm getting dressed" can't be that far off "Stay out of my burrow or I bite you, you strange animal""

      That's kind of a bad example, many cultures have had no problem with nudity. What is strange is how human cultures differ in respect to how they view themselves, their bodies, nudity, etc. Christianity and western culture is really fucked up when it concerns nudity and sexuality when you compare it against other

      • poly-culturalism (Score:5, Insightful)

        by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:09PM (#25936365)

        Christianity and western culture is really fucked up when it concerns nudity and sexuality when you compare it against other peoples, cultures and times.

        EVERY culture is "really fucked up" when compared to any other culture ... based upon the bias of the person doing the comparing.

        Many modern people are more primitive then many ancient cultures in their behaviour and ethics.

        You can find single examples to demonstrate that claim ... but you cannot find multiple examples in a single ancient culture to support it. Again, depending upon the bias of the person doing the comparing.

        Culture X was more enlightened regarding Y than modern cultures ... but less enlightened regarding A, B, C and D.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851)

        Right, because what happens in some other culture completely invalidates the point. I mean clearly he's being culturally insensitive for not using an example that's relevant to every possible culture.

        But hey, it's not like the reader is supposed to consider the point offered on it's merits instead of making culturally insensitive remarks. What fun is posting if rational thought gets in the way of bigotry.

      • If there was anything my anthropology course taught me is that tolerance and moral relativism are uniquely western features and if we want to compete on even footing with the rest of the apes out there we probably ought to ditch them too.
    • by ruin20 (1242396) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:01PM (#25936267)
      I think one of the things that was missing from the previous paragraph is that in a tribal setting there is an expectation of behavior between members in the tribe. As information disseminates outside the tribe, there is a disconnect between availability of the information and an understanding of how that information is used. So it becomes harder to decide on what to share, as it has to be assumed that it could be used in any conceivable way.

      in other words, a tribe is established by who we choose to share information with, and although we can now share information globally without respect to boundaries, that doesn't mean we're a part of a "global tribe" because the tribe is still a subset of the global system. Where who we choose to share info with might have once been an issue of geographic happenstance, it no longer a sufficient criteria for the designation of a tribe. There is no longer a one to one mapping of the people in close proximity and the people who have open access to my information and actions.

      • What worries me about the premise/write-up (no, didn't rtfa) is that it sounds a lot like "humans tend to do X, so !X is unnatural and therefore you don't deserve it." Cannibalism and incest are things that humans tend to do when left to their own devices, but that doesn't mean they're the best way for things to be.

        Are humans not allowed to make progress? Sure, things that are completely unnatural for us can be awkward until being refined. There are lots of modern things that we haven't had throughout th

      • by eonlabs (921625)

        This is key

        Privacy is necessary when personal accountability is no longer naturally regulated by group size. If someone can do something with information you have that would be detrimental to you, it makes sense for you to not want to share it. Beings or groups who do not need to share information that could be used against them have an advantage over those who must share information with everyone. Assuming that all information you could disseminate is harmless is naive. Keeping protections against infi

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      I think is another kind of thing. Territoriality goes around physical presence, and is a base instinct that should come from far enough in the evolutionary chain (from before mammals?). It fits in the "stay out of my room", anything related to some kind of personal space, but not in "dont watch" even if you are 3 km away.

      Is a social behaviour or instinctive, we are wired for it? Personal privacy have meaning for all cultures?

      If is just "the right thing to do", but we aren't wired, the environment/society/cu
  • About privacy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @03:43PM (#25936107) Journal
    Honestly, there is very little I do or say that I care if it's kept private. What I do in the bedroom? No, really I don't care. I'm not particularly attractive with my balding head and too-large belly, but if someone really wants to watch that, it's kind of their problem.

    In theory the government could use data mining to distort reality and accuse someone falsely of some crime, but really, if the government is to the point that they want to go out of their way to accuse people, there are lots of tried and tested methods that have been used throughout history. Privacy or lack of privacy is not going to make a bit of difference in whom the government arrests or kills.

    If someone DOES want to kill me, having that kind of information would be helpful, but realistically, if someone wants to kill me, there are so many opportunities to kill me that just by following me around a bit they will have no problem finding a time to knock me off. Hit men have been doing their jobs for millennia, without modern technology.

    The point of all this is, some people worry too much about their privacy.
    • Re:About privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ILoveCrack83 (1244964) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:04PM (#25936317)

      I'm not particularly attractive with my balding head and too-large belly

      With your too-large belly you have a higher risk at heart disease, but I guess you don't mind your insurance company finding out about it and charging you a higher fee...

      • Re:About privacy (Score:4, Interesting)

        by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:10PM (#25936375) Journal
        Insurance companies shouldn't be able to charge a higher rate for pre-existing conditions. For being overweight, it might be arguable that I should get a punitive rate until I can get my weight down, since it is something I can manage. But if we as a society are not providing for the medical care of people who have no other recourse, then we need to change that.
        • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:14PM (#25936411)

          It's okay to have the information open ... as long as the information is not used in any way that you disapprove of.

          The problem is that once the information is open, you no longer control it. You do NOT have a say in how it will be used.

          If it is used in some way that you do not want it to be used, sucks to be you. That is why privacy is important.

          • What business do you have keeping information from the rest of society which could be used for a social good? Do you really think you live in some kind of vacuum where only you the individual matters?

            How about if all these 'evil' insurance companies can drastically reduce the overall cost of health care to a point where it saves a large number of lives? Is it ethical for you to want to withhold that information simply because it benefits you personally to do so?

            Human society is more than the sum of the indi

            • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @06:12PM (#25937447)

              What business do you have keeping information from the rest of society which could be used for a social good?

              Look up the historical records of how "social good" is defined. You'll find everything from slavery to genocide.

              Do you really think you live in some kind of vacuum where only you the individual matters?

              See above. Individuals throughout history have opposed the "social good" of the time and we regard them as selfless heroes now.

              It is the choice of the individual. Not the society.

              How about if all these 'evil' insurance companies can drastically reduce the overall cost of health care to a point where it saves a large number of lives?

              I worked for an insurance company. They aren't doing it because they think they're improving society.

              They're doing it because the owners believe they, personally, can turn a profit. And they believe that the more information they can collect, the greater their profit (and the smaller their losses) will be.

              Don't confuse "economical" with "good".

              Is it ethical for you to want to withhold that information simply because it benefits you personally to do so?

              Yes, of course it is.

              Human society is more than the sum of the individuals which make it up, and the interests of that society are more than the sum of the interests of its individual members.

              Again, look up slavery and genocide.

              Not that I think we should mindlessly surrender all privacy, but to insist on mindlessly guarding everything about ourselves we are paying a price, and that price may well be higher than the price of openness. It may also be a lot higher than we think it is. Seems to me the issue bears a lot more study.

              It "may well be" ... but if you study history you'll see that the opposite seems to be the norm.

              The more privacy the population has, the more "Free" that society is.

              The less privacy the population has, the less "Free" that society is.

              • Its as simple as that. It is morally bankrupt and I have to say I see your position as both simplistic in the extreme and grossly myopic.

                Nobody is claiming insurance companies aren't operating for profit, of course they are. So what? It is simply irrelevant. You have cast the whole question into some sort of zero sum equation where if they gain you loose. You'll have to do better than that.

                I also disagree that privacy and freedom are inextricably entwined in such a way that a simplistic "if we have less pri

                • I also disagree that privacy and freedom are inextricably entwined in such a way that a simplistic "if we have less privacy we have less freedom" is a justifiable position. Prove it.

                  There is no proof outside of mathematics.

                  Instead, I'll reference history. Read up on the totalitarian societies and the amount of spying they did on their citizens and how much information the citizens had to provide.

                  Its as simple as that. It is morally bankrupt and I have to say I see your position as both simplistic in the ext

                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    Cite a 'historical fact'.

                    Here, I'll give you an alternative analysis of your freedom/privacy formulation. Left to their own devices people tend to be secretive. Thus I would say that it is quite true that totalitarian societies don't respect privacy, but they by definition don't respect ANYTHING about individuals, so I can't see where you have established cause and effect. More like reversed it the way I see it.

                    Show me one example from history in which a free people freely gave up their privacy and that LED

            • by umghhh (965931)

              I am not going to protect my data on all costs. In fact I cannot do it - my gov. has a lots of info on me which it shamelessly sells, gives away or does not bother to protect. I think the balance of power over information is so hopelessly skewed into one direction that we do not need to give away more - they are taking it anyway.
              Can you show benefits of scrapping privacy? I cannot unless it concerns the ruling elite or owners of insurance companies etc. I can see benefits for the society if the information

              • by rhakka (224319)

                you've hit on the real issue: it is DISPARITY between different levels of society that causes problems, as it relates to privacy.

                If powerful people in our society had no privacy at all, it would be very hard for them to manipulate people, pull shady deals against the common good, etc. that is a good thing, as it would appear FUD and deception are the two most commonly wielded political tools as far as I can tell.

                I would go so far as to say if we all lost privacy to some degree, as long as the powerful los

                • Although I suspect that military secrecy is highly overrated myself. In my experience in the defense industry what I observed was that secrecy was mainly a way of hiding greed and corruption. The projects I worked on weren't secret because it served any military purpose, they were secret because they were a giant waste of money.

                  Granted, if you want to fight a war, then you would pretty much require operational level military secrecy. So, hmmm, that might lead me to conclude that war in an open society is pr

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                I have advanced a hypothesis that there can be benefits to giving up privacy. I am not trying to maintain that there is a single unalterable principle that says we should surrender all information about ourselves to everyone at all times (although one might make that case). Just that there is some (probably a great deal) of information we could benefit from sharing. Indeed anonymization may be a pretty good strategy.

                It is all well and good, and I don't disparage people for being prudent, but I think we're d

          • by Mattsson (105422)

            If a government agency, or a corporation, can have full insight in my life, I should be entitled full insight into that organisation so that I can see what they do with the information they have about me.
            Actually, as a citizen, I should have full insight into the government either way, but that's for other reasons.

            The problem is what we are going towards; Privacy only for those that have access to information.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by plnix0 (807376)
          Force insurance companies to provide insurance, got it. What happens when all the insurance companies decide the cost of business is no longer worth it, and close down? Just what is it that you think motivated people to start insurance companies in the first place?
        • by umghhh (965931)

          Whether insurance companies need hidden cameras in bathrooms all over is questionable - there are better and cheaper methods of finding out if you are obese. Other than that insurance companies in country I live in do not charge more for preexisting conditions. Preexisting conditions are simply not covered. So technically you are right practically not.

          But that is OT. I think the argument is simply wrongly chosen. There is a need for privacy and honestly if somebody considers only his belly there that then i

      • by david.given (6740)

        With your too-large belly you have a higher risk at heart disease, but I guess you don't mind your insurance company finding out about it and charging you a higher fee...

        But that's not a privacy problem. That's simply because you've decided to trade your health on the open market, by buying health insurance (which I assume is what you're talking about). The insurers are charging you a higher premium because you're a bigger risk because you're overweight --- in other words, the market is working as it's desi

        • by perlchild (582235)

          It depends on how you define privacy. In some places, the insurance company can charge extra for certain conditions... Provided they know about it! And they can't usually find out unless you get medical treatment for that condition or treatment for a related condition. In other words, they can't just hire a private investigator on you and find out. The privacy issue here is "what they are allowed by law to do to find out". TFA makes a note how we had less "privacy" before telecommunications occured, an

    • Re:About privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by D_Blackthorne (1412855) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:08PM (#25936357)
      How about this scenario, then: The religious right manages to get enough power to actually attempt to legislate "morality" (or at least their twisted version of it). They do decide that they need to know what you and your wife are doing in the bedroom. They discover that you're having sex in something other than the missionary position, and what's more, you're using birth control. "No, no!" they say, "That's illegal now, you're going to have to be arrested and punished for that!". So tell me, how do you feel now? Don't sit there and tell me it can't happen, either, since it DOES happen in one form or another somewhere on this planet all the time -- just not in this country, YET. You, sir, don't worry ENOUGH about privacy. If the above doesn't get to you, then let's see what you have to say when identity thieves ruin your life, because some nosy corporation with poor information security measures practically hands someone the keys to your life.
      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        The question is : does this really change anything that privacy disappears before or after the theocracy is imposed. Because, you know, if condoms get illegal, privacy won't last very long. No, I really feel that the fight for privacy is lost but what we should ask for is symmetry : if the government has a spy camera in my bedroom, I want to have on in theirs. I'm ok with public cameras as long as its recording are 100% public and that police abuses are not censored.
      • by Xest (935314)

        I'm assuming by this country you mean the US in which case you may or may not be right, but living in England I thought it can't happen here too.

        I was wrong. A recent case about a guy (Max Mosley) having an S&M orgy with 4 prostitutes was published by the Daily Mail, the Daily Mail also said the orgy had a nazi theme to it, this was demonstrated to be a false in court. Similarly, the court ruled that the Daily Mail had breached his privacy rights, all well and good, I thought great, common sense prevail

    • Re:About privacy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:51PM (#25937245)

      "Honestly, there is very little I do or say that I care if it's kept private."

      In that case, would you mind telling us
      (1)... Where you live.
      (2)... When you will be on holiday
      (3)... Where you hide anything valuable.
      (4)... PROFIT! ... I'm joking of course, but there is a very serious point, in that total information one someone, allows total power over them. The wishful thinking reply to that, is that with total information on everyone then everyone can see the crime being commited. No. That's not going to happen. In the case of a petty criminal, like the above example, yes it will stop them. But it will not stop a powerful political group seeking to use total information to gain great power over others and to push out their competitors. Even push out other political groups, in effect creating dictatorships.

      Its an illusion to think that everyone will have total information on everyone else. The world doesn't work like that. The world forms a hierachy of power, its not flat and open. The ones at the top in power are not going to let that power be taken from them. They will create laws protecting against information being allowed on them, while making it open season for information on everyone else, so they can watch what others are doing. Its what is happening now. Just look at the political moves being made in the UK for example. (Ironically the home country of George Orwell).

      The power stuggles will not end, with total information... This reality mining is a naive dream. It reminds me of the early wishful thinking dreams in the early stages of the Internet, where it was said and seen as some kind of utopian force for freedom of speech. Now look at where the Internet is going, with many countries trying to clamp down and monitor the Internet for decent. Detecting decent is all part of the process of seeking political power. This process is called Opposition Research and its a whole area of political activity, that most people don't usually get to see, but it occurs continuously.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opposition_research [wikipedia.org]

      Now imagine total Opposition Research applied to vast majority of people on the planet. They will do Opposition Research on everyone, be absolutely sure of this one point, its all part of the process of seeking power over someone else.

    • by OldHawk777 (19923) *

      Data Collection of unknown, implicit, and/or explicit activities/processes and relationships, without theft/collection of personal identity/data is not an invasion of Personal Privacy. The activities/processes and relationships are not linked to a specific individual, but are linked to a specific pattern/method....

    • Re:About privacy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gilgongo (57446) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @06:47PM (#25937721) Homepage Journal

      Honestly, there is very little I do or say that I care if it's kept private.

      ...

      The point of all this is, some people worry too much about their privacy.

      Since you take an extreme position on this, let's take some extreme examples to show that the issue is far wider than the fact that you think you have nothing to hide.

      Should you walk directly to your car from the door of the supermarket, or stop to look at that attractive woman loading her groceries first? If you stop, will that action be recorded and used against you by your wife in 10 years time? Do you smack down that moron accusing you of butting into the queue when you were there before him, in case you're being videoed from an angle where he looks like he's in the right? What do you say to your boss when he asks you whether you did your 7 hours that time you were working from home? Does he know that you spent 30 mins reading the paper after lunch?

      If you made literally everything in your life available to the scrutiny of persons unknown, you would have to live your life as if in one eternal press conference: every word and every action would have to be pre-meditated and vetted inside your head (the only private place you had). Look up the word "panopticon" and you'll see where I'm going with this.

      Now, you may tell me not to exaggerate, that things will never get that bad. The point is though - when will you draw the line? When you have some privacy to protect? If so, how much?

      Or do you think that wresting control of your life back from those who have it is going to be easier than giving it to them in the first place? After all, I suppose if you have nothing to hide...

    • What I do in the bedroom? No, really I don't care. I'm not particularly attractive with my balding head and too-large belly, but if someone really wants to watch that [...]

      Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  • "Privacy" in a crowd (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lupulack (3988) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @03:45PM (#25936123)

    Nobody thinks twice about talking on their phone in public. Anyone can listen in if they wish, but they usually don't. It's not privacy that most people have issue with, it's being singled out.
    As has been said many times, it's not a problem so long as everyone is treated the same way. General trends and statistics are fine, it's being the focus of attention of Big Brother that gets creepy.

    • This is the bit I don't get:

      Every moment he has his Windows Mobile smartphone with him, they know where he is, and who's nearby.'

      Really? How does that work? Have the people who happen to be nearby all have to have signed up for the trial, or is their presence somehow automagically detected and uploaded? Hey, if you want to sign away YOUR privacy, feel free (though I'd rather you didn't) It doesn't give you the right to sign away my privacy at the same time!!

      Does this mean I should be avoiding people who use Windows Mobile smartphones? Oh wait, the universe already took care of that for me.

    • by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:29PM (#25937037) Homepage Journal

      Nobody thinks twice about talking on their phone in public. Anyone can listen in if they wish, but they usually don't. It's not privacy that most people have issue with, it's being singled out. As has been said many times, it's not a problem so long as everyone is treated the same way. General trends and statistics are fine, it's being the focus of attention of Big Brother that gets creepy.

      But that's the problem with what is happening to privacy. It's the citizens that are losing their privacy, while governments are keeping more and more secrets, and guarding them fiercely (and with heavy weaponry).

      It should be the opposite. Everything the government does should be transparent (at least to their own citizens), and they should be required to go to extraordinary lengths to obtain private information about their citizens. Otherwise, tyranny will inevitably result. As they say "knowledge is power", and gaining knowledge of citizens while denying knowledge of government to the citizens is nothing but a semi-transparent power-grab.

      Considering the amount of authority vested in government representatives, we should be demanding much greater transparency, just to level the playing field.

    • by sjames (1099)

      It's not just a matter of special attention. WHen I have a sorta private conversation on my cellphone in public (which I don't generally do), nobody who overhears it will ever know who I am. They won't be adding my conversation (which they can only hear half of anyway) to their massive data mining application. Odds are, they will have forgotten all about me by the next day if not sooner. Further, none of those people are invisible. If one of them gets nosy and starts following me to hear more, I'll know.

      Big

  • How much bandwidth / txtes does this use?

  • It would be nice if myspace/facebook & other social networking sites offered some information to new users educating them on what they are really getting themselves into. I don't think most young people have a real sense of what online privacy even is or why it is important.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sakdoctor (1087155)

      Not going to happen. The social networking sites are financially fuelled by people's private info. They won't discourage people from giving up as much as possible.

      We all have secrets, but it can only be a good thing when people screw up their careers/lives because they gave too much away on facebook. In a Darwinian sense I mean.

      • "Not going to happen. The social networking sites are financially fuelled by people's private info. They won't discourage people from giving up as much as possible."

        Yeah. When I read the GP's post it reminded me of an article that I read the other day about various parental organizations petitioning toy manufacturers asking them not to market their products directly to children as much this holiday season. Both made me think the same thing ... "yeah and I want a pony".

  • I wonder... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 91degrees (207121)
    How do they feel about people outside their "tribe" knowing this stuff? I know a lot of people who share pretty personal stuff on LJ but locked to friends, but I wouldn't claim to know them that well.

    I also wonder how his behaviour might be different if he didn't know he was being watched.
    • by Valdrax (32670)

      How do they feel about people outside their "tribe" knowing this stuff? I know a lot of people who share pretty personal stuff on LJ but locked to friends, but I wouldn't claim to know them that well.

      People have a very different emotional reaction between, "Oh, all my friends found out about it," and "Oh, everyone in town found out about it," and "Oh, crap, it's all over the internet and the news now. I will forever be known as 'the Noodle Guy'" (to quasi-steal from Calvin & Hobbes).

      Some things you can live down because everybody knows you. Other things you can't because that's all most people know about you. It's the difference between having no privacy between peers and being infamous in the co

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms AT infamous DOT net> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @03:58PM (#25936227) Homepage

    For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew

    Bullshit.

    First of all, "history" post-dates civilization. People have been gathering into villages, larger than small tribes, for longer than we've known how to write. So, no, we haven't lived in small tribes for most of human history. Most of us have been living in agricultural villages for all of human history - those few who still maintained a hunter-gatherer lifestyle didn't get recorded and are ahistorical.

    Anyway. For most of human existence, to get privacy all you had to do was walk away a bit. If I wanted to have a private conversation with you, walking for twenty minutes out of the campsite or village would do it. And what went on in another hut or teepee was not your business; spying was non-trivial.

    This idea that privacy is a temporary anomaly is a bullshit justification by lovers of a surveillance society.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by pimpimpim (811140)

      Yeah, the summary had several typos, it should have been:

      "For most of MIT's history, MIT students have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew"

      • by BSAtHome (455370)

        "For most of MIT's history, MIT students have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew"

        And because MIT students are geeks and nerds, the tribe's size is one. So, they do not know anybody. Therefore, they have a very private life.

  • Bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Antlerbot (1419715) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @03:58PM (#25936237)

    Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly.

    Ridiculous. If this were true, why didn't everyone in those old-school villages live in the same big hut? Likewise with animal homes. As some poster above said, territoriality, and hence privacy, is inherent to all life above a certain intelligence threshold.

    Though, as in all things, there are exceptions to prove the rule. Like dirty hippies.

    • In those cases where they did all live in one big hut ... why did they choose that? What were their circumstances?

      When those circumstances changed, did their choice of living space change?

      I think that most of those situations came about because of a few circumstances.

      #1. It's easier to heat one big hut with everyone in it during the winter.

      #2. It's easier to defend one big hut from the enemy tribes.

      #3. It's easier to re-build one big hut when the weather knocks it down.

      And even in those cases, while it migh

    • by Joe Tie. (567096)
      All life above a certain intelligence threshold? Way to reason from a sample size of 1.
  • by Chicken_Kickers (1062164) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:02PM (#25936281)
    in a medium sized village during my youth. Maybe I am just generalizing based on my experience in this one village, but what they claim is a big exaggeration. Sure you will hear about who is going out with who or who is cheating on their husband or wife but you won't know how many phone calls someone makes a day or what channel he watches on TV or listens on the radio. There is an unwritten treshold of 'decency' where as long as what you do is not over this decency threshold, no one will take notice, hence the gossips about infidelity etc. So, no, we are not returning to norm with regards to privacy.
  • 100 Students gave away their privacy to get a cell phone that probably isn't an open operating system.

    All the talk is corporations need to keep their secrets, but the people don't need privacy.

    • I'm hoping some only accepted the phone to reverse engineer it. Nothing like a free phone you have no worries about accidentally "bricking."

  • by Angostura (703910) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:03PM (#25936297)

    'For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew,' Dr. Malone said. 'In some sense we're becoming a global village.

    The metaphor is only really apt if the villagers are completely free to saunter over to the village elder's hut, in person, without hinderance - rap on his door say "Oi, why have you been peeping through my window you perve" and then poke him in the eye. I suspect that the White House, and equivalents around the world would not take kindly to this behaviour. Therefore the analogy fails.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:03PM (#25936301)

    'For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew...' The key is 'everyone they knew'. That is, they knew everything about everyone who knew everything about them. With the 'global village', people I don't know can know everything about me; but I can't know everything about anyone else, including them. So, I don't know their motives or intentions with respect to the info they have about me. So, I don't want them having that info about me.

  • For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew...

    Our tribal ancestors lived before the days of intense government and corporate information gathering. Had one of the villagers been an FBI agent or a Walmart VP of marketing, they might have acted quite differently

    • by quanticle (843097)

      The other issue, as other posters above have pointed out, is reciprocity. In this study the researchers are taking data about the student's "private" lives, but are not giving back any data about themselves. This is quite unlike their "village" analogy, where, if you find out some private data about me, I have an opportunity to find out private data about you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:18PM (#25936441)

    'For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew,' Dr. Malone said. 'In some sense we're becoming a global village. Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly.'"

    Well, hats off to for completely misunderstanding previous societies.

    Yes, before the telegraph we didn't have good comms. Messages took days, even weeks to be conveyed. Then they took a few minutes.

    Now they are almost instant.

    That is nothing to do with previous village societies where small groups of people would know everything about everyone else in the same small group.

    The state still knew NOTHING about those people.
    And industry and commerce and marketing groups and political pressure groups knew NOTHING about these people.

    Its a totally different ball game. To compare the old "I know everyone in my street" mentality to global gropu associations is grossly ignorant. They are not comparable.

    Therefore the privacy implications are completely different.

    Stephen, can't be bothered to login.

  • by quanticle (843097) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:35PM (#25936593) Homepage

    What measures are being taken to ensure that the privacy of others who communicate with these students isn't being compromised? Are they having the students tell everyone they communicate with, "Hey, I'm in this data gathering study, so everything you send to my phone is going to be collected for study?"

    If they're not doing the above, how are the students any different from the informants employed by the East German STASI?

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:36PM (#25936607) Homepage

    You can download the entire data set [mit.edu], which has had some data removed.

    It's mostly cellular phone transactions. Your cellphone provider and NSA already have this data.

  • It seems to me that the compromise between security and privacy has always been made. It seems reasonable that people formed village to increase security, thus hurting privacy. As villages got bigger, and not everyone was completely known, i.e. is was possible to do things that not the whole group new about, then added measures were added.

    But privacy does fluctuate. One can imagine kids having the ability to venture to play whatever games kids play with no one the wiser. This was even possible 30 year

  • Huge difference (Score:4, Insightful)

    by g2devi (898503) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:12PM (#25936843)

    > For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew,'
    > Dr. Malone said. 'In some sense we're becoming a global village. Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly.

    There's huge difference. In the tribal setting, a small group of people knew everything about each other, but that small group of people had to deal with the consequences of misusing that trust because they lived and died based on the strength of their community.

    In the global village, people are numbers with attributes associated with them. You're free to misuse this lack of privacy without bearing the consequences or even seeing the faces of the people whose lives you hurt or even destroy.

  • 'For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew,' Dr. Malone said. 'In some sense we're becoming a global village. Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly.'

    Dr. Malone can certainly rationalize with the best of them, can't he? He's attempting to equate two radically different states:

    • EVERYONE in a collective having access to full knowledge of the activities of everyone else; and
    • A SMALL GREEDY MINORITY having exclusive full knowle
  • cracker jack PhD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eil (82413) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:23PM (#25936989) Homepage Journal

    Dr. Malone said. 'In some sense we're becoming a global village. Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly.'"

    How do you get to be a doctor by spewing out crap like this? Far from actual justification, it's quite a poor analogy, even on Slashdot.

    If you were to go back in time and join a tribal village, everyone else may know everything you do, but you also know everything they do. However in today's world, corporations and governments want to know everything about the populace but keep their own activities a closely-guarded secret.

    In tribal communities, knowledge of others' activities is balanced. In "civilized society," the distribution of knowledge (not to mention money and power) is extremely lopsided. Those in power want to keep it that way. If everyone knew about all of their activities, they wouldn't be able to retain their power for very long.

    I would actually be in favor of a surveillance state if (and *only* if) the camera points both ways. They get to see what goes on through cameras on our streets and outside every home and we get to see everything that goes on around every police car and inside every government meeting. But since that's never going to happen, the only sensible thing to do is fight for no cameras at all, losing battle though it may be.

    • by Belial6 (794905)

      How do you get to be a doctor by spewing out crap like this?

      I can think of two scenarios:

      1) He is unaware of how dumb his statement is, and thus he is evidence that college degrees are mere club cards, not any indiction of a quality education.

      2) He is fully aware of how dumb his statement is, and thus is simply evil. Willing to hurt an untold number of people for his own short term gain.

  • Maybe those 100 just were a bit of exhibitionists.

    I'd be filming me jacking off and making Goatse-like photos or use it as a "toilet cam" and send all this to a fake or prank contacts all day long, if I knew someone had to watch me and I would get a free and expensive electronics device for it to tinker with. ;)

    As a software developer I can use it test my mobile phone software on it. And for the real real calls, I'd use my old mobile phone.

    But maybe I'm just a bit evil and sexually dirty sometimes. O:-)

  • Why not send out experimental drugs for me to try for merchandise based on open access to my complete DNA code. Why not stake the cops out to look for crimes I MIGHT commit based on all my other behaviors?

  • Data Collection of unknown, implicit, and/or explicit activities/processes without theft/collection of personal identity/data is not an invasion of Personal Privacy.

    Discovery, collection, aggregation, analysis... of unknown, implicit, and/or explicit activities/processes and relationships is the technology equivalent of creating a yellow-pages phone book, travel guides, college science and engineering text books, creating an organizational chart.... Knowing something is done is not the same as knowing someo

  • Does this apply to politicians, wealthy people and corporations?

    What I fear is that for regular people there will be no privacy but government, corporations and wealthy people will keep working in secrecy and that is too big an asymmetry. They would know everything about us and we would now nothing relevant about them. This would allow them to control our lives completely.

    If there is going to be no privacy, lets start with full transparency from government actions, and that means everything, and full disclo

  • "For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew..."

    That may have been true in the most general terms...who's dating who, which cop has a drinking problem, whatever. But this kind of eyes-in-your-bedroom tracking of everything you watch, everywhere you go and even, potentially, every product in a store your gaze lingers on, is unprecedented.

    Even in small villages, there are doors and drapes, and while your close friends would know

  • In addition to the obvious, there is a more insidious second order effect that professional social engineers (madison avenue, politicians, con artists, etc.) will have the feedback to really fine tune their approach. It will be a focus group of 100% accuracy.

  • ...but they said they already know what happens on Slashdot.

  • The analogy is inapt (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thelandp (632129) on Monday December 01, 2008 @01:33AM (#25940467)
    The tribe analogy is inapt, because tribes didn't have distinctions like employer/employee, government/citizen, rich/poor. Currently within each of those pairs the surveillance levels are almost completely one-sided in favour of the former. There seems to be very little trend to address that imbalance, and the surveillance described in the article would increase it. If anything the balance should be more surveillance of the former, since those are the ones with more power, and as the great Stan Lee said, "With great power comes great responsibility". Sadly the former in each case wants to increase their power over the latter, and increased surveillance is just one of the tools.

    Attempts to have disclosure of information from the former to the latter exist (eg google "freedom of information", "open government" or "corporate disclosue") but they are usually weak, because of the laziness of members of the latter.

  • In some sense, privacy concerns ARE new. That's because in the small town/tribal village, you knew everything about everyone who knew everything about you. If you felt it necessary, any one of those somebodies could be within punching distance in just a few minutes. If you did feel that need, your odds of anything beyond an informal "don't do that again" warning as a result (or getting your own nose flattened) were small.

    The people you didn't know much about (in the next town over) knew very little about yo

  • """
    'For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew,' Dr. Malone said. 'In some sense we're becoming a global village. Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly.'
    """

    But, even in those tribe people can "get away." As in, there always have been ways to get some privacy and there always have been things that are just private. And that in which is public, is spread by those that wish to spread it (or someone not respecting others wish

  • privacy rights are a relatively recent phenomenon

    Maybe, yet exploitation of people's privacy didn't take long to develop either. For people to give up privacy, they have to have complete trust towards fellow people and towards authority. What do you think the ever raising concern about privacy rights show about that trust ?
  • 'For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew,' Dr. Malone said. 'In some sense we're becoming a global village. Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly.'"

    In small tribes, "everyone you know" also lacks privacy. They know where you live, but you also know where they live. If they harm you, all your mutual friends/relatives will punish or shun them.

    Where is that accountability in the "global village?" And how is "everybody watch

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