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Privacy

Conflict of interest: Digital privacy vs. national security

Roxanne Bauer's picture
It’s a dilemma only known in contemporary times: how to balance security and privacy.

Today, the internet is increasingly accessed through mobile devices, people are sharing more across multiple outlets, and bulk collection of data is growing. Private, personal information—Google searches, page clicks, GPS locations, and credit card swipes are all collected constantly and invisibly, often without the consumer's permission. Not only are businesses engaging in this tracking, but governments are also conducting surveillance on the basis of national security concerns. 

Governments have defended their actions by claiming that the information gathered helps fight threats to national security, both foreign and homegrown. People understand that governments need to give due weight to both privacy and national security; unfortunately, many do not receive even the most basic information regarding their country’s surveillance programs or whether their privacy is being violated.

According to Claire Connelly, “people’s right to privacy is being reduced by the day on the grounds of national security. And while it’s important to keep people safe from terror and other forms of national security threats, it’s arguable whether this should come at the cost of privacy."
 
Conflict of interest: Digital privacy vs. national security

Information is power: Silvio Waisbord on how digital technology changes the public sphere and notions of privacy

Roxanne Bauer's picture
How do digital media affect traditional theories of the “public sphere” and power? Are we living in a modern-day panopticon?

The notion of the “public sphere” is useful worldwide to consider how citizens can and do articulate demands to the market or to states. The public sphere is generally conceived as a place (figurative or literal) in which citizens can share information, debate issues and opinions, and restrain the interests of the powerful elite. This space is critical to the formation of public will and the transmission of it to official authorities.

In contrast, the Panopticon is a design for a prison or jail which allows watchmen to observe all inmates at all times without the inmates knowing whether they are being observed or not.  The idea has been used to discuss online privacy, as individuals are often unaware of how governments and companies collect and use the information they gather about them online.  Moreover, the revelation that governments and companies work together to “spy” on citizens, as revealed by Edward Snowden revived the concern that a modern-day panopticon might be possible.   

But these concepts raise another important question: How can the public sphere, which aims to limit excess power, continue to function if the state is monitoring citizen activity?  Much of the information that is collected and tracked online is willingly shared by individuals as they search the internet, use mobile apps, and contact friends and family. This activity is vital to the future of a public sphere around the world, but it also allows governments and companies to intrude in our private lives.

Silvio Waisbord explores these two evergreen, yet very immediate concerns. He argues that while digital technologies have improved the capacities of states and companies to track human activity, digital media can also be used for democratic purposes. 
 
The modern public sphere vs. The online panopticon

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Illicit financial flows growing faster than global economy, reveals new report
The Guardian
$991.2bn was funneled out of developing and emerging economies through crime, corruption and tax evasion in 2012 alone, according to the latest report by the Washington-based group, Global Financial Integrity (GFI), published on Monday.  The report finds that, despite growing awareness, developing countries lose more money through illicit financial flows (IFF) than they gain through aid and foreign direct investment. And IFFs are continuing to grow at an alarming rate – 9.4% a year. That’s twice as fast as global GDP growth over the same period. Though China tops the list of affected countries in terms of the total sum of money lost, as a percentage of the economy, sub-Saharan Africa was the worst affected region as illicit outflows there average 5.5% of GDP.
 
Development’s New Best Friend: the Global Security Complex
International Relations and Security Network
The United Nations’ blueprints for the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reveal an interesting trend. Whereas the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focused exclusively on development initiatives, the SDGs look set to interweave security into what was once solely a development sphere with the inclusion of objectives that seek to secure supply chains, end poaching and protect infrastructure. This shift reflects lessons learned from 15 years of implementing the MDGs and, even more so, broader global trends to integrate security and development initiatives.

Are You the Perpetrator of Your Own Loss of Privacy?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Exploring ideas, innovations and fresh approaches to our world is at the heart of the public sphere. People, Spaces, Deliberation brings you significant voices from academia and the practice of development through a series of interviews.

Do conventional notions of privacy still exist? Are we trading privacy for convenience?  If privacy is a thing of the past, is this a bad thing?

According to Professor Silvio Waisbord, an expert on global media, development, and social change, the answer is mixed.  People trade the downsides of losing privacy in exchange for convenience, simplification, and other social factors. 

The interesting question for him is, "What do people typically do when they are confronted with the fact that you are one of the main perpetrators of your loss of privacy. What do you do about that? Are you willing to make changes about that?"

Professor Silvio Waisbord on Privacy and Convenience

Living in a Panopticon

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"I have nothing to hide" - that's a sentence I dread in conversations about blurred lines between what's private and what's public. I hear it often in discussions about reality TV, Facebook pictures, and surveillance technologies, including cameras on every street corner and in every bus.
For surveillance, there is a security argument to be made – personal security, national security. For Facebook and reality TV, there’s an entertainment argument to be made – it’s what the audience likes to see, and in any case, the inhabitants of the Big Brother house chose to be there. These arguments are insufficient. The problem about blurring the lines between what’s private and what’s public is a matter of principle, not a matter of personal convenience.

Privacy is so 20th Century

Sina Odugbemi's picture
Modern life is life on the grid: credit cards, smart phones, internet connections, social media presence and so on. And here is the truth: Life on the grid is life in a fishbowl erected on stilts in a bazaar. As a result, something that we once thought was important to us as citizens is not simply lost, it is irretrievably lost: it is the idea of privacy.

The concept of privacy itself is notoriously difficult to define. In reading around the subject, I found this description of it by Larry Peterman in a 1993 essay in The Review of Politics titled ‘Privacy’s Background’:

We look upon the private as that part of our lives insulated against the communal or public broadly constructed, protected from unwarranted intrusion by others, including political authorities, and the place where, in the last resort, we can clothe ourselves in anonymity.


I think that is exactly right. It is what Grant Mindle, in an earlier essay, calls ‘concealment and seclusion’ that protected place where we can have parts of our lives that will not leak into the public arena.

Accountability on the Internet: What’s the Role of the New Information Gatekeepers?

Johanna Martinsson's picture

The internet has certainly changed the process of how information and news is filtered and by whom.  A process that was carried out by traditional media for decades is today largely managed by a few internet companies through algorithms.  In this new role, they are not only filtering information but also helping us navigate a widely scattered information landscape through their products and services.  In a new report by the Center of International Media Assistance, Bill Ristow discusses the role of these new information gatekeepers and the implications they face in protecting policies and practices across borders, such as openness of information and freedom of expression. Setting universally accepted norms on what is good behavior on the internet and what is not, is a major challenge. The question is who should be making these kinds of decisions? How are the new information gatekeepers held accountable?

Who owns the content and data produced in schools?

Michael Trucano's picture
who gets to eat this piece of pie -- and how should the pie be sliced up in the first place?
who gets to eat this piece of pie --
and how should the pie be sliced up in the first place?

Last year an article on Mashable made waves among some of the people I follow on Twitter. Kindergarten Teacher Earns $700,000 by Selling Lesson Plans Online (a later article bumped the figure up to over a million dollars) may admittedly describe a rather outlier occurrence. That said, it did bring attention to some emerging issues related to the educational content developed by teachers as part of their jobs, and the fact that such work may have economic value that can be quantified and realized in ways that, as a result of the introduction of new technologies and technology-enabled services (and the emerging markets that such things can catalyze and fuel), would have been thought impossible even a handful of years ago.

Not many people go into the teaching profession to make a lot of money. Few students expect to receive any monetary reward for anything they produce in school (beyond perhaps a few congratulatory rupees now and then from their proud grandparents). However, as more and more digital content and data are generated as a result of normal day-to-day teaching and learning activities in schools, might these data and this content have economic value that can be monetized, and if so:

Who stands to benefit?

Who has the rights to this content and these data,
and what might they do (and not do) with them?

Twitter vs. Facebook: Bringing Transparency to the Middle East

Tanya Gupta's picture

Think about it:

  • Twitter limits all "conversations" to 140 words
  • Twitter allows privacy whereas Facebook is based on discovery of relationships
  • Twitter relationships can be one way, the way real relationships often are (we all “know” President Obama but he knows very few of us) whereas Facebook is always a two way street

 

Wherever democracy is absent or weak, for example in a dictatorship or a monarchy, there could be a high price to pay for any open expressed dissension.  Twitter allows anonymity for those who push for transparency and democracy.  Although one can exist without the other, studies show that the two are highly linked.

A 2011 study from the University of Washington entitled “Opening Closed Regimes: What Was the Role of Social Media During the Arab Spring?” showed that social media, via Twitter, played a vital role during the revolutionary movements in Tunisia and Egypt.  The authors said “for the first time we have evidence confirming social media’s critical role in the Arab Spring”.  The project created a database of information collected from Twitter, analyzing more than 3 million Tweets based on keywords used, and tracking which countries thousands of individuals tweeted from during the revolutions.