Information Commissioner’s Office Reports On Big Data And Privacy

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has today released a new report that considers how big data will operate within existing data protection laws which ensure that personal information is:

  • Fairly and lawfully processed
  • Processed for limited purposes
  • Adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • Accurate and up to date
  • Not kept for longer than is necessary
  • Processed in line with your rights
  • Secure
  • Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection

The Big data and data protection report accepts that the use of big data can bring benefits to companies and doesn’t wish to stifle innovation. That said, the ICO is keen to point out that organisations still have an obligation to keep information both private and secure, offering the following practical advice for dealing with personal information used in big data analytics:

  • Personal data - Does your big data project need to use personal data at all? If you are using personal data, can it be anonymised? If you are processing personal data you have to comply with the Data Protection Act.
  • Privacy impact assessments - Carry out a privacy impact assessment to understand how the processing will affect the people concerned. Are you using personal data to identify general trends or to make decisions that affect individuals?
  • Repurposing data - If you are repurposing data, consider whether the new purpose is incompatible with the original purpose, in data protection terms, and whether you need to get consent. If you are buying in personal data from elsewhere, you need to practice due diligence and ensure that you have a data protection condition for your processing.
  • Data minimisation - Big data analytics is not an excuse for stockpiling data or keeping it longer than you need for your business purposes, just in case it might be useful. Long term uses must be
    articulated or justifiable, even if all the detail of the future use is not known.
  • Transparency - Be as transparent and open as possible about what you are doing. Explain the purposes, implications and benefits of the analytics. Think of innovative and effective ways to
    convey this to the people concerned.
  • Subject access - People have a right to see the data you are processing about them. Design systems that make it easy for you to collate this information. Think about enabling people to
    access their data on line in a re-usable format.

The ICO’s head of policy delivery, Steve Wood, says that there is a buzz around how big data can be used for social benefits as well as the more obvious economic advantages it can provide. He did, however, highlight how organisations are struggling to understand how they can put big data to innovative new uses without falling foul of the law. Wood also explained that individuals are also expressing concern over how their personal data is being used in big data scenarios.

The answer, he says, begins with organisations being more transparent about how they are using big data:

“What we’re saying in this report is that many of the challenges of compliance can be overcome by being open about what you’re doing. Organisations need to think of innovative ways to tell customers what they want to do and what they’re hoping to achieve.

Not only does that go a long way toward complying with the law, but there are benefits from being seen as responsible custodians of data.”

The ICO report says that openness is a key factor, pointing out how organisations need to ensure that personal information is only used in ways previously communicated to users. The complexity of big data, it says, should not be used as an excuse to use data without consent.

Responding to concerns that existing data protection law is insufficient in the face of big data, Wood added that:

“Big data can work within the established data protection principles. The basic data protection principles already established in UK and EU law are flexible enough to cover big data. Applying those principles involves asking all the questions that anyone undertaking big data ought to be asking. Big data is not a game that is played by different rules.
The principles are still fit for purpose but organisations need to innovate when applying them.”

The organisation notes how the area of big data is fast-evolving, leading it to conclude that its guidance will likely change over time. In light of that, the ICO positively encourages feedback which can be sent to [email protected] up until September 12 of this year.

Are We The Architects Of Our Own Insecurity?

Its a well known fact that people men are obsessed with something. (Note to self: make that two things but don’t mention the first).

Go to any shopping centre on a Saturday and you’ll notice all manner of sideways glances, secret peeks and longing stares as men of all ages centre their attention on anything but their significant others.

The object of their desire, of course, is technology. Like bees around a honey pot, we can’t help ourselves – new tech captivates us in ways we cannot explain and creates a longing and desire that nothing else can satisfy.

Boredom with the old and interest in the new is fed by some sort of crazy attention deficit that is ingrained into our very DNA I swear.

Technology manufacturers love it though. Such an interest, that is almost always backed up by demand where funds permit, drives them to create new products like there is no tomorrow.

But the never-ending rush to bring new ‘toys’ to market does have drawbacks.

The biggest one that I can see is the fact that the security issues surrounding new technology never seem to be given the attention they deserve ahead of a product release and are instead only considered later, in response to particular incidents or third-party research (think IoT for instance).

Additionally, as we now know thanks to Edward Snowden, some governments have their own agendas when it comes to technology, seeing computers, phones and tablets as an extension to their national surveillance campaigns.

Some nations are not standing for it though, as evidenced by China’s claims on Friday that the iPhone represents a security threat to the state. The national TV broadcaster criticised the iPhone’s  “Frequent Locations” function, saying that access to the data “could glean sensitive information such as the country’s economic situation or ‘even state secrets.’”

Apple hit back by saying that it ” does not track users locations – Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so,” adding that it had “never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will. It’s something we feel very strongly about.”

Whilst the iPhone is still freely available for sale in the country at this time I would not be surprised if that changes very soon, given the fact that China also moved quickly to outlaw the use of Windows 8 within government agencies.

The same state TV service branded Microsoft’s operating system as a threat to the nation’s cybersecurity, saying that it posed a “big challenge” and suggesting that the NSA may be using it to gather data.

Then there is the case of Russia which, shortly after Snowden’s defection, swiftly swapped computer hardware within the Kremlin for good old-fashioned typewriters in order to improve its security whilst creating a means for linking any created documents to a particular machine.

By way of contrast, the United Kingdom government is having a whale of a time with all this new technology, seizing upon the perceived threat of terrorism, peadophiles, etc., to rush in a law – which I think is draconian in nature – which will allow it to hold onto metadata for an entire year (if you want to know why that should concern you, whether or not you think you have ‘something to hide’, and including why it may pose a threat to democracy, then I highly recommend this recent post from Sarah Clarke in which she looks into the proposals in detail).

The fact that the UK government is doing a rush job on getting the proposals through Parliament leave little to no opportunity for MPs to debate the Bill and just as little time for us mere mortals to do the same either but what is noticeable is the fact that we, as a nation, are not standing up when practises that threaten our security and privacy are brought to our attention in the way that the likes of China and Russia are.

Maybe we don’t need to because, after all, we live in a democracy and our elected officials are there at our whim to do as we ask after all.

But then again I don’t feel that way myself – I think that we are allowing technology to control our lives to some degree rather than make them simpler and we are too blind to see what is happening.

I believe that new technology is a good thing but the way in which much of it is utilised these days warrants a level of scrutiny and subsequent control that just isn’t there right now. Alternatively, the insecurity could be all mine.

Is Privacy Now The Preserve Of The Rich, Famous And Scandalous?

Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 says (emphasis mine):

Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Now I don’t know about you, but I think that sounds pretty good in principle – we all have the same right to privacy, just as we all have the same rights under the legal system (cough).

And, considering the multiple revelations from NSA whistleblowing ex-contractor Edward Snowden, its just as well too, given how our privacy is being walked all over every day.

But, just like the legal system (arguably), the right to privacy seems to operate on a tiered system in which the mere act of being human doesn’t seem to equal a level playing field in terms of rights.

As I’m sure most people are already aware, Google recently launched its ‘right to be forgotten’ request form in response to a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which affords citizens the ability to attempt to magic away search results they don’t like.

Whilst I can see many good reasons for such a form to exist, and some genuine reasons why someone would wish to remove certain topics from Google’s search results, it seems as though most removal requests surround past indiscretions and unfavourable news, neither of which are wholly what the ECJ was thinking of when it drafted the legislation – in my opinion.

Now we have the news today that the rich and famous have been having their homes blurred out from Google’s Street View. En masse.

The likes of Tony Blair, Sir Paul McCartney and Lily Allen have all had their properties effectively removed from the mapping program, presumably on the grounds that they are somehow special.

Now I know that Google will consider requests from the little man in the street when it comes to Street View – a friend of mine discovered that a car that shouldn’t really be parked on his drive was in fact there for all to see when the service first started and now has an updated view of his property, sans said vehicle – but the web giant isn’t about to remove my house or his entirely are they?

Well, apparently they will. Google says -

“We provide easily accessible tools allowing users to request further blurring of any image that features the user, their family, their car or their home. In addition to the automatic blurring of faces and license plates, we will blur the entire car, house, or person when a user makes this request for additional blurring. Users can also request the removal of images that feature inappropriate content (for example: nudity or violence).”

And, if you’ve found an image that you would like further blurred, or an image that you believe contains objectionable content, just follow these steps

  1. Locate the image in Street View.
  2. Click “Report a problem” in the bottom-right of the image window.
  3. Complete the form and click “Submit”.

That’s it. We’ll review your report promptly.

But good luck with that – there are many reports on the web of people submitting such requests, sometimes multiple times, and getting no joy whatsoever, or seeing the images of their houses return after a while.

I guess they just aren’t rich or famous enough huh? Or is it because the rich and famous can back up requests with letters from lawyers? I don’t know about that but it certainly seems to me that some people are more equal than others in the world of privacy – so take it upon yourselves to do what you can to maintain what little you have left of yours.

Google Glass Didn’t Kill The Video Star

Have you just splurged £1,000 on Google Glass? If so, you may be tempted to wear your expensive fashion faux pas everywhere in order to show off how much of a [insert appropriate adjective here] you really are.

But one place you won’t be able to wear the headset is in your local cinema.

The UK’s filmhouses won’t allow it you see. Not because they think it is more annoying that popcorn-munching, screaming kids who cannot be controlled by their parents, but rather because they are worried about piracy.

Several movie theatres decided to ban Google’s controversial headgear just six days after it made its debut in Blighty, echoing similar moves in the US.

The fears over piracy are overstated of course – Google Glass can only record about 30-45 minutes of video before the batteries run out – and who in this day and age wants to watch a jerky movie filled with peoples’ heads filmed by a cameraman with a nervous twitch?

Not only that but the device makes no secret about when its active, as described by a Google spokesperson:

“We recommend any cinemas concerned about Glass to treat the device as they treat similar devices like mobile phones: simply ask wearers to turn it off before the film starts. Broadly speaking, we also think it’s best to have direct and first-hand experience with Glass before creating policies around it. The fact that Glass is worn above the eyes and the screen lights up whenever it’s activated makes it a fairly lousy device for recording things secretly.”

But the news does make the point about how technology can often be seen as a threat, especially when it is perceived to threaten the livelihood of big businesses.

Whilst I believe that the way in which cinemas have reacted is somewhat over the top, the situation does demonstrate an effective use of information security – the theatres have obviously assessed a risk to the intellectual property under their control and have put measures in place to mitigate that threat. As long as they have ushers on hand to ensure that their policy of not allowing Google Glass to be deployed within their environment is enforced, they will have successfully protected the data broadcast over the large screen and it will be mission accomplished.

It is a shame, and a reflection on society as a whole, that securing something of financial value is given such a high priority in comparison to protecting privacy rights though.

I’m sure many of you have heard of Glass wearers being referred to as “glassholes” and that derision exists for a reason – wearers of Google’s eyewear can potentially use the device to take pictures and video of people without their knowledge.

Recent research has also discovered how a wearer can capture a PIN code typed onto an iPad from a distance of 3 metres and there is no reason to believe that the device couldn’t snaffle up an ATM PIN just as easily, something which prompted Brian Honan to tell the Register that:

“Devices that can capture images such as camera, mobile phones, PCs, etc. have always posed a threat to sensitive information. Anyone with a device with these capabilities can record sensitive data or capture other information such as PINs or passwords.

People should always be aware of their environment when entering passwords or PIN numbers to ensure they are not overlooked. Even when there is no-one around you should assume that someone could observe what you are doing by cameras with zoom lens, Google Glass, hidden cameras, or indeed CCTV cameras.”

And today a Dutch researcher has demonstrated how an attacker could compromise Google Glass and effectively see through the eyes of the wearer, taking pictures and video, and sending them back to a computer under their control.

Whilst such privacy concerns will undoubtedly be addresses in the not too distant future, they certainly will not be overcome within a mere six days.

Whilst security is undoubtedly important I can only hope that privacy doesn’t become the poor relative when it comes to regulating and controlling new technology and systems.

But I won’t hold my breath – after all, money talks far louder than the man or woman in the street being ogled by a glasshole.

Google: Data Mining Could Save Lives

Google co-founder and chief executive Larry Page believes that the fear of data-mining within the healthcare industry is costing as many as 100,000 lives per year.

Responding to fears over the vast amount of personal information held by Google, a topic recently brought to the fore by the ‘right to be forgotten‘ ruling from the EU’s High Court, Page suggested that his company had not gone too far. In fact, he suggested that Google has not gone far enough at all.

Speaking to Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times, he said:

“For me, I’m so excited about the possibilities to improve things for people, my worry would be the opposite. We get so worried about these things that we don’t get the benefits. Right now we don’t data-mine healthcare data. If we did we’d probably save 100,000 lives next year.”

Page was speaking after the conclusion of Google’s I/O developers’ conference on Wednesday, during which the company demonstrated  a new design for its Android operating system, as well as its offshoot – Android Wear – for smartwatches.

In keeping with that new technology, Google also introduced Google Fit, its new health and fitness tracking platform. Mobile devices, including the new raft of smartwatches, will be able to utilise sensors to share health data with apps that will be able to monitor a user’s weight, workout plan and eating habits in much the same way as Apple’s HealthKit that was announced earlier this month.

“I think technology is changing people’s lives a lot, and we’re feeling it,” Page told Manjoo, before arguing that many people have an instinctively negative view toward new technology – until they actually see it in action – at which point they realise it isn’t scary as they first thought:

“In the early days of Street View, this was a huge issue, but it’s not really a huge issue now. People understand it now and it’s very useful. And it doesn’t really change your privacy that much. A lot of these things are like that.”

The keynote speech wasn’t the resounding success that Google had perhaps hoped for though as it featured two separate protests.

The first focused upon the company’s ownership of Boston Dynamics, a robotics company which has an association with the US military’s R&D wing Darpa. The second surrounded Google’s role in the gentrification of San Francisco.

Google’s Head of Android, Chrome and Google Apps Sunder Pichai, who led the keynote speech, said:

“I think in some ways it’s good that there’s an open debate about it and I think we needed it. There’s been a lot of growth and the area is trying to adapt to that growth and that has been a concern.”

I personally agree with Pichai’s comments, namely that far more open debate is required. The scope for improving healthcare by sharing vast amounts of data from millions of people is huge.

But, and its a massive but, such data should rightfully remain private in my view. Not only is someone’s medical condition a sensitive topic but it can also be a costly one.

With Google hardly being synonymous with privacy, and having shareholders to satisfy, I certainly wouldn’t want the company to know any more about me than it already does.

More than that, can you imagine the consequences of having your entire medical history stored in a central database?

Imagine going to your GP and being offered new (and expensive) drugs (sponsored by Google?) for that condition that has been bugging you for years. Or how about having your medical insurance premiums hiked, or policies revoked, because you had an operation in the past? Or what about surfing the web and being met with adverts tailored to your personal profile, offering third-party treatments from unlicensed medical practitioners (because, after all, making money from targeted ads is Google’s business model)? And what happens if the database containing your medical details is breached and the contents uploaded to a site like Pastebin?

Anything that potentially improves the health of millions of people around the world should be considered, but lets not forget that everything comes with a cost, one way or another.

“I’ve Got A Secret And I’m Not Telling You What it Is!”

“Ner, ner, I know something you don’t.”

How many times did the older readers amongst you hear that in school?

“I’ve got a secret and I’m not telling you what it is!”

Yeah, thats something I heard a lot when I was growing up.

Children of all ages, especially younger ones, placed huge value on information back then and knowing something that other people didn’t was a great way to either look cool or really wind someone up, depending upon your character.

When I was a teenager the world was altogether a very different place you see.

Everyone had secrets. Some of those secrets were dark – we’ve all read about historic crimes that have been swept under the carpet and gone unmentioned. Others, however, were altogether far less sinister, like home phone numbers (we didn’t have mobiles back in the day) which would be kept out of the phone directory and only shared with close family and friends.

As a result I think we, as a society, were also far less bothered about what other people were doing. If the guy at number 4 was having an affair with the lady at number 7 then that was their business and we certainly weren’t going to think about it, much less share our suspicions with anyone else.

But things change.

In some respects thats good.

Wider sharing of information amongst police forces and government agencies, along with the proliferation of CCTV, can go some way to mitigating the risk of terrorism and crime. Whatever you may think of stories about the NSA and GCHQ, you cannot doubt that the sheer volume of information at their fingertips at least gives them the potential to avert acts of fear and violence.

But there is a downside too.

The increase in security comes at a cost of an extreme erosion of privacy. Cameras watching us all day, across the entire country, intelligence teams ‘accidentally’ hoovering up every last detail about innocent people and the erosion of trust as leaders discover that their supposed allies are tapping their phones and reading their emails.

There are many people who are quite rightly outraged by this and politicians are, on the face of it, appearing to curtail their surveillance activities lately.

But we’ve lost the war anyway.


Because the kids in the school playgrounds of today aren’t bragging about the secrets they know.

On the contrary, the new cool is to share as much information as possible about everything. And everyone.

Remember the cool kid you went to school with? The leather jacket-clad guy at the back of the class who knew everything but shared nothing. Well he isn’t there any more. His place has been taken by a new kind of hip that sits at the front, watching and listening intently, tapping furiously on a smartphone decked out with all manner of social sharing apps.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and like this and share that buttons are the trendy crew in school these days.

Ideas, beliefs and arguments have no merit but that which is attributed to them through the frequency of their sharing and quality is no more than a sum of popularity.

The currency of keeping something to yourself has morphed into a new form of coin known as sharing everything.

We may have felt a certain sense of dignity in keeping ourselves to ourselves but our children have rebelled and they have created a world in which everyone acts like a celebrity, detailing every aspect of their lives on Facebook, posting the highlights on Twitter and uploading the glory shots to Instagram.

Maybe its good that the next generation finds it so easy to talk, albeit in a virtual rather than real kind of way, but is it a good thing?

My kids think so and try to persuade me that I don’t get it, in just the same way I always felt that my own parents didn’t understand the world I was growing up in. Its only with age and a dash of wisdom that I’ve come to realise that they weren’t so completely wrong after all.

So maybe there is hope that our children will one day grow up and realise that privacy, once given away for nothing, can never be bought back for any price. It will be too late for them by that time of course but they can address things with their own offspring.

Or they could be right.

Maybe we do need a world without secrets.

That certainly sounds good and I can already think of many ways in which our lives would be better if that were to happen. But, and its a big but, there will always be someone who doesn’t play ball. Someone who does keep secrets.

And that person who bucks the trend and says, “Ner, ner, I know something you don’t,” will hold all the cards, have all the power and be will likely gravitate to positions that offer ever more power, ever more secrets to keep.

So I guess some information does have value after all – perhaps we should all pause and consider that our privacy is a valuable commodity… and not give it away for nothing.

Online Polls – Are You Sharing Too Much?

Sometimes, it seems, you cannot go through a day without being offered a poll to complete. Whether you are walking through town, minding your business, surfing the web or keeping up to date on Twitter, someone, somewhere, would love you to cast your vote.

The majority of these polls that you see are just for fun, voting on ridiculous things and then having a chuckle when you see how other people voted.

Others are for topics you couldn’t care less about and can safely be ignored whilst others may be a compulsory part of your working day.

Others will be offered up by friends and contacts via social networking sites and you may or may not feel compelled to take part in them.

For the most part, they ask questions ranging from the unimportant (who is your favourite movie star) through to the extremely useful (such as who should win a security bloggers award) and there is no real harm in answering them, besides the small amount of time that you have to give up.

But in a few instances the polls can pose some more serious questions.

The questions will be somewhat more probing, looking to find out something about you and why you visit a certain site or perform a certain type of action. Whoever set the poll up wants to understand who you are, where you are and how you think.

Sometimes some of the sneakier sites on the web will even make completion of the poll mandatory in order to proceed onto your ultimate aim of, say, reading a particular news story. Such polls may not demand your name and address but they do drift roughly into areas of personally identifiable information.

Other polls can be far more obtrusive though and i’m sure you’ve seen a few of them. If you, for example, use Facebook, then you may have seen polls that ask for a lot of personal information, or permission to access the same from your profile. If you are not a privacy conscious person (and I’d have to question why not in this, the surveillance age), or you have divulged too much on your profile page, then this can be a problem.

Many people share information on social sites that they really shouldn’t – its in our DNA – but they feel reasonably safe because they think only their friends can see it. That isn’t true though and there are many polls, apps and companies that may appear to be affiliated with Facebook (or whoever), even though they are most certainly not, or even trying to appear that way.

If you share information you need to be alert. Even if you are divulging personal information within an environment in which you feel safe, you need to be certain that the audience is the one you expect. I myself have a few friends who have completed polls on Facebook only to later discover that they actually handed all that info to a third party unawares.

As for what a third party may do with your personal information, I’ll leave you to think about it, but lets just say that online polls can pose both security and privacy issues.

When filling in polls make sure you know where you are, what information you are sharing, who you are sharing that data with and, most importantly, what the recipient is going to do with that information.

And if this article has left you feeling like you need to complete an online poll right now then I can tell you that you can find a legitimate one right here, though I’ll leave you to decide who to vote for ;-)

Privacy Incursions – Where Exactly Should The Lines Be Drawn?

Privacy is a big deal these days and rightly so in my opinion.

Everything we do, and everywhere we go, is seemingly being watched and there appears to be a growing resistance to it under some circumstances.

But the one thing that really stands out to my mind is how different people feel about their own personal privacy and what each of us deems to be acceptable or not.

For instance, the majority of people I know take umbrage at the fact that various governments around the world are keeping tabs on web activity, even if it does come under the umbrella of ‘keeping us safe’ from all the bad guys who want to destroy us and our way of life.

But, curiously, many of those same people think nothing of going onto their favourite social networks and sharing their entire life stories with distant relatives, friends and (potentially) millions of other people they do not know at all.

Equally, I also know a few people who constantly whine about CCTV surveillance and traffic cameras but who don’t give a second thought to having their own personal cams inside their houses so they can monitor what their kids get up to whilst they are out at work.

Mixed messages much?

So with the above in mind I give you the story of a New York restaurant that uses Google to check out its patrons before they arrive to dine.

The maitre d’ at Elvedon Madison Park restaurant starts his day by using the web to check out the eating establishment’s bookings for that evening.

Justin Roller Googles every diner in the hope of finding out as much as possible, the intention being to make their attendance an experience to remember.

Roller goes way beyond learning first names and looking at faces – he also wants to know whether a guest is a wine fanatic or a chef (I wonder if the latter would affect the level of service given?) He also wants to know where diners are from so that he can match guests with servers from the same area if possible.

He also wants to try and determine the reason for the visit – if it is a birthday or other special occasion he can then use that information as part of his greeting.

Now some of you may be thinking this is great service to the customer and of benefit to the restaurant itself and, in many ways, it is.

But one person’s delight is anothers’ cause for concern.

To my mind, being wished a happy birthday by a stranger on a night out is a little creepy – sure I’ve arranged for the same for a significant other, along with banners and a cake, etc., but that was my choice about how their birthday information was shared – I don’t want retailers and other service providers presuming that information shared on the net is business data (and the same would go for those companies that used to spam me rubbish on my birthday via snail mail years ago when I was far less savvy than I am now).

It isn’t. And thats how I want it to remain.

I’m not you though so my thoughts may be completely alien to your views.

What do you think about companies digging into your life prior to doing business with you? Are you concerned that they may dig too far? Or would you be happy to deal with a business that knows you better than they ought to?

Big Brother Goes Dutch

If you thought the proliferation of CCTV surveillance in many countries was bad then you may be shocked to hear that the Dutch parliament has overwhelmingly voted in favour of the use of drone surveillance.

The new law, proposed by Ivo Opstelten, Minister of Security and Justice, and Ronald Platerk, Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, won approval from almost all of the country’s large number of political parties.

Its adoption will mean that Dutch municipalities will be allowed to monitor their citizens via mobile cameras, including those deployed on drones.

City mayors will now be able to choose which type of camera surveillance should be used in times of civil disturbances that are not confined to static areas, picking between fixed devices and ones that are either attached to vehicles or airborne.

A clarification document sings the praises of surveillance technology, extolling the virtues of crime reduction and increased public safety, whilst highlighting that the use of drones will not lead to a reduction in CCTV that is already in place.

The problem with such an approach, of course, is the impact that such a move could have on the privacy of Dutch citizens.

Whilst the drones are only authorised for use in situations where there is a threat to public safety (which is already a rather broad term don’t you think?), there is no clarification on how large a geographical area the surveillance can take place in which I think at least raises the possibility of some nefarious future official going beyond their remit in terms of ‘spying’ on the populace.

Furthermore, there are no guarantees available that Dutch lawmakers will not go further in the future and there are fears that the drones could one day be easily equipped with facial recognition technology.  Opstelten himself told the D66 party that he was unable to forsee what future uses the drones may be put to and could not rule out facial recognition in the future. Tellingly, he also said that the possibility of future privacy violations was no reason not to proceed.

Given my eternal cynicism where government surveillance is considered, in conjunction with what we now know about the NSA spying on US citizens, I wonder if the Netherlands will merely serve as a testing ground for widespread drone usage in the future?

Given the recent revelations from Edward Snowden about government spying on telephone and computer actions, do you also worry that our childrens’ world will be one in which personal privacy is considered to be an antiquated ideal?

Clinton Wants US To Keep Control Of The Internet

Former US President Bill Clinton believes that the Obama administration’s decision to relinquish control over online domain names and addresses may be a poor one.

He said that many of the governments hoping to step in just wanted to use the position in order to stifle debate and to silent dissent.

During a weekend debate sponsored by his charitable Clinton Global Initiative foundation he said:

“A lot of people who have been trying to take this authority from the U.S. for the sole purpose of cracking down on Internet freedom and limiting it and having governments protect their backsides instead of empowering their people.”

Clinton believes that the US has been a good steward of the internet, helping to keep it open and accessible by all.

He did, however, recognise how the ongoing revelations from Edward Snowden about the NSA had played their part in raising demands for the US to relinquish its role in its traditional role of looking after the net.

That said, he doesn’t believe that the solution is for control to be spread out amongst other nations, saying:

“I understand in theory why we would like to have a multi-stakeholder process. I favour that. I just know that a lot of these so-called multi-stakeholders are really governments that want to gag people and restrict access to the internet.”

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been tasked with managing Internet addresses since 1998, though US officials have often proposed giving up US oversight in the intermediate period.

ICANN’s favoured approach is the one put forward by the Obama administration. On 14 March the organisations President and CEO, Fadi Chehade said:

“We are inviting governments, the private sector, civil society, and other Internet organizations from the whole world to join us in developing this transition process. All stakeholders deserve a voice in the management and governance of this global resource as equal partners.”

ICANN says its role as administrator of the Internet’s unique identifier system will remain unchanged as those functions “play a critical role in maintaining a single, global, unified and interoperable internet.”

According to an opinion piece in Bloomberg last week, some critics of Obama’s plan “have claimed that this move opens the door for certain authoritarian states to somehow seize control of the Internet, blocking free speech and inhibiting a multitude of legitimate activity,” but, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Clinton himself said:

“I understand in theory why we would like to have a multi-stakeholder process. I favor that. I just know that a lot of these so-called multi-stakeholders are really governments that want to gag people and restrict access to the Internet.”

Whilst I can understand the apprehension behind some certain nations having “control” over the internet, I believe that it is no more right that the US should have total control either.

There has been a lot of talk lately about net neutrality and how ISPs, companies and governments should treat all internet content equally, but surely in this age of privacy invasions, we should also be looking for an internet that is ‘governed’ by more than one nation and its own thoughts on how it should work?

What do you think?