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The Woman Who's Making Your Privacy Her Business 120

davecb writes "The woman who faced down Facebook and was dissed by Silicon Valley business boys as 'an old-fashioned scold' is really one of the early advocates for using the internet for access to information, and to open up government. The Globe and Mail has an interview with Jennifer Stoddart, the privacy commissioner of Canada, who went up against Facebook for all of us, and made them back down."
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The Woman Who's Making Your Privacy Her Business

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  • by shadowofwind ( 1209890 ) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @03:12PM (#34529906)

    I think the problem is a lot bigger than the internet. It looks to me that the whole cultural vision that started with the European enlightenment has largely run its course, at least in North America. I can't comment on Europe, since I haven't been there recently. Its not that we don't have freedom - in many ways we have more now than ever. Its that the fire has gone out somehow, and its just momentum that's carrying us forward. The ideal of freedom was always pretty corrupt, a matter of freedom to enslave other people or steal their land. Now that corruption has overtaken it.

    Not to be all gloom and doom: there will be another enlightenment. But I don't see it happening immediately. In America, the most ambitious and talented people seem to be recent immigrants from Asia and Eastern Europe. And it doesn't seem that most of the Asians think or care very much about freedom, at least not yet.

  • Re:For all of us? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cruciform ( 42896 ) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @04:32PM (#34530274) Homepage

    With companies maintaining and sharing huge databases they can build a profile of you quite easily.

    Consider the following situation, which parallels in in a way.

    A friend's girlfriend loved to hang out in an IRC channel. She thought she was "stranger proof" because she limited the amount of information she shared in any one conversation. Some of the items she revealed were public, while others were revealed in "private" conversations. She (erroneously) assumed that some of the private conversations were with individuals sharing no connection with each other.
    After hanging out in the channel for a couple of weeks she got a phone call -- from Australia. One of the channel members created profiles of other users and data mined their conversations in order to identify them. Coupled with the ability to search the net for the consistent use of handles that many become attached to, he was able to track down people rather easily.

    For him it was a game. For others it's business.

    We don't always know who owns the services we use, and rarely have any idea of who the data is shared with. If company A owns sites B and C, they have the data on you that both sites generate.

    While he was working with a small group of people who were likely to share information with people they interacted with regularly, having a huge dataset encompassing thousands of your interactions with other sites is just as useful to a company with the means to examine the data.

    And privacy policies don't mean squat without someone keeping them honest. Imagine how many sites out there use them as honey traps.

  • Re:For all of us? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by davecb ( 6526 ) <> on Sunday December 12, 2010 @10:04PM (#34531522) Homepage Journal

    Darn right all of us!

    An older example of transitive trust causing problems to innocent bystanders was a library system and a drugstore system running on the same time-shared mainframe.

    The drugstore system had security up the wazoo, the library did not.

    An evil operator did the equivalent of a join on names between the two systems, and selected female persons with prescriptions for birth control pills from one and for addresses from the other, then started stalking.

    Neither system alone would have yielded the information, but the combination of the two did, and the results were as startling then as the first cross-site scripting attacks were more recently.

    So she's looking out for all of us, even those that don't know the degree to which they're vulnerable.

    --dave (I'm genuinely impressed by her) c-b

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming