Scott Adams: Privacy

“If you give up a little bit of privacy, the government owns you. But if you give up most of your privacy, the government loses its power over you.”

“At some point, every home that has a security system will have video as a component. Law enforcement will know who comes and goes through nearly every front door.”

“In twenty years, the government will always know where your car is, the same way they can track your phone. Taxis will someday only take credit cards. Busses and trains will require you to swipe an ID, and so on. If you travel, the government will know where you went and how you got there.”

“Imagine, for example, having a smartphone, an iWatch, and a smart car. When you go to the store, the cashier will someday automatically know that you, your car, your watch, and your phone are all in the same place. That is nearly a 100% identity check. When you approach the cash register, I can imagine your phone automatically identifying itself and pulling up your photo on the register.”

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Virtual kidnappings; black-market online identities

From remarks by Eric Schmidt to audience at Cambridge University:

“We could see virtual kidnappings – ransoming your ID for real money,” Schmidt said. “Rather than keeping captives in the jungle, groups like Farc [in Colombia] may prefer a virtual hostage. That’s how important our online ID is.”

“But the future will be much more disruptive to terrorists than everyone else. I can’t see them operating out of caves in Tora Bora” – as al-Qaida did after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. […] Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad reportedly raised suspicions because it didn’t have any internet connection.”

“Our online identity will become such a powerful element. Laws to protect anonymity – we may even see rise in black market where we can buy pre-made or real identities, with all their shopping and background all completely ‘real’ – verifiable online, that is. […] Both drug smugglers trying to evade police and political activists looking to hide from repressive regimes would find those useful, he said: “you’ll be able to buy an identity with fake friends and a history of purchases.”

And one more: “For anyone in the public eye, they will have to account for their past.”

The final big scene in Lincoln is the voice vote on the 13th Amendment. House members names called and they vote yes or no on slavery. If I had to guess, most of those voting against the amendment went to their graves proud of their votes. At least publically. Things move faster these days. If Todd Akin could quietly erase every instance of his “legitimate rape” remarks, would he? How about after he’s dead, would his children — or their children — hit the delte button?

“Publishing is going away.”

From brief interview with Clay Shirky:

“Publishing is not evolving. Publishing is going away. Because the word “publishing” means a cadre of professionals who are taking on the incredible difficulty and complexity and expense of making something public. That’s not a job anymore. That’s a button. There’s a button that says “publish,” and when you press it, it’s done.

In ye olden times of 1997, it was difficult and expensive to make things public, and it was easy and cheap to keep things private. Privacy was the default setting. We had a class of people called publishers because it took special professional skill to make words and images visible to the public. Now it doesn’t take professional skills. It doesn’t take any skills. It takes a WordPress install.”

And this nugget: “Institutions will try to preserve the problem for which they are the solution”

Tree house tea house

Takasugi-an, a tea house in Chino, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. The angle makes this look a little more perilous than it is. But still, you gotta really want some privacy to go up there for a cup of tea.

I love tree houses (but who doesn’t) and look forward to the next Tree Houe Project on the Prairie Garden Trust (next spring I am told). Check out more photos of the tea house.

The Information, by James Gleick

Publishers Weekly review on Amazon:

“In 1948, Bell Laboratories announced the invention of the electronic semiconductor and its revolutionary ability to do anything a vacuum tube could do but more efficiently. While the revolution in communications was taking these steps, Bell Labs scientist Claude Shannon helped to write a monograph for them, A Mathematical Theory of Communication, in which he coined the word bit to name a fundamental unit of computer information. As bestselling author Gleick (Chaos) astutely argues, Shannon’s neologism profoundly changed our view of the world; his brilliant work introduced us to the notion that a tiny piece of hardware could transmit messages that contained meaning and that a physical unit, a bit, could measure a quality as elusive as information. Shannon’s story is only one of many in this sprawling history of information.  Gleick’s exceptional history of culture concludes that information is indeed the blood, the fuel, and the vital principle on which our world runs.”

The following got some highlighter during my read:

“In the long run, history is the story of information becoming aware of itself.” pg 12

“With words we begin to leave traces behind us like breadcrumbs: memories in symbols for others to follow.” pg 31

“All known alphabets, used today or found buried on tablets and stone, descend from the same original ancestor.” pg 33

“The written word was a prerequisite for conscious thought as we understand it.” pg 37

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iPhone hat

Need a little privacy while watching that movie on your iPhone. Long for that Big Screen viewing experience. You can have it if you’re willing to look like an ass clown.

My friend Tom grabbed this must-have item at MacWorld and brought it to the Coffee Zone where I tried it on.

Your iPhone goes in a little sleeve at the front of the bill and the lens slides forward and back for proper focus. Like sitting in row 10 of the Bijou.

Cyborg Anthropology

I doubt there’s any shortage of scholarly papers on the sociological and anthropological effects of the mobile phone. I’ve never had a desire to search out and read any of them.

Bluetooth150But my interest was piqued by Amber Case, one of the attendees at Gnomedex 8.0. A recent graduate, Amber describes her area of work and study as "Cyborg Anthropology." Ooh. She was kind enough to send me a copy of her thesis: "The Cell Phone and Its Technosocial Sites of Engagement." Here’s a snippet from the introduction:

"Mobile telephony has ushered in social geographies that are no longer entirely public or entirely private. The mobile phone allows place to exist in non-place, and privacy to exist in public. Never before have people been able to disembody their voices and talk across any distance, in almost any place. Cell phone technology has thus changed the dichotomies of place and non-place as well as the private and public dichotomies into a technological-human hybrid."

I think I’ve had a whiff of this idea from all the time I spend communicating online. And when I break down and graft an iPhone to my hip, it’s only going to get better/worse.

Minority Report Billboards


“Billboards are, for the most part, still a relic of old-world media, and the best guesses about viewership numbers come from foot traffic counts or highway reports, neither of which guarantees that the people passing by were really looking at the billboard, or that they were the ones sought out.

Now, some entrepreneurs have introduced technology to solve that problem. They are equipping billboards with tiny cameras that gather details about passers-by — their gender, approximate age and how long they looked at the billboard. These details are transmitted to a central database.

Behind the technology are small start-ups that say they are not storing actual images of the passers-by, so privacy should not be a concern. The cameras, they say, use software to determine that a person is standing in front of a billboard, then analyze facial features (like cheekbone height and the distance between the nose and the chin) to judge the person’s gender and age. So far the companies are not using race as a parameter, but they say that they can and will soon.

The goal, these companies say, is to tailor a digital display to the person standing in front of it — to show one advertisement to a middle-aged white woman, for example, and a different one to a teenage Asian boy.” [New York Times]

Patient’s webcam sends shockwaves through hospitals

“A nurse’s discovery of a Webcam hooked up by parents in their child’s Boston hospital room has stunned the patient’s doctor, raised a mound of privacy issues and potentially left medical staff looking over their shoulders. The unidentified parents set up the camera so the child’s favorite relative could see what was going on during the long hospital stay.”

“Dr. Deborah Peel of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation said as long as a patient isn’t recording other patients, she doesn’t see violations of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which protects patient privacy.”

“Many people are very concerned that the quality of care in hospitals has decreased so much. I could understand the family wanting a Webcam to prove what care their family did or didn’t get,” she said.” — Boston Herald

That’s the money quote in this story.

Create all the policies you want… hire good lawyers (like Barb)… but as long as families question the quality of the care their loved ones are getting (rightly or wrongly), they’re going to be taking pictures and video. If you wind up in court, you might prevent it from being introduced as evidence, but you’ll have a hard time keeping it off YouTube.

Who’s privacy is the hospital really trying to protect?

If I was having a broken arm set and wanted Barb to video the procedure, on what grounds should the hospital prevent this? Is it okay if she watches the procedure and then opens up her laptop and blogs what she just saw?

The elephant in the room is the appearance of something to hide on the part of the facility and the staff.

Why wouldn’t you train your staff to: “take care of every patient as though what you are doing is being recorded”?

Because, like it or not, it will be.