Field RemarksInformation & LawLab NotesLiving between the linesNotesObservationsReflections

Self-managing our digital identity, digital assets and intellectual property in case of death or incapacity

ObservationsNow a grandfather, I had to revise my will and mandate in case of incapacity. Except that this time, I found out that I must ask my potential agents and testamentary executors to deal with the ubiquity of digital media. That does complicate their task.

Only a few years ago, one could easily find the documents of an incapacitated or deceased person. It was enough to systematically round the various places where the person lived and worked. The nature of the documents generally jumped in the eyes: contracts, invoices, private correspondence, books, recordings, professional documents, etc. In the absence of specific instructions, one could apply certain customs: such as delivering private correspondence items to their authors, distribution of content libraries, records shelves, photo albums or collections to interested close ones; retention of fiscal documents for some six years before destroying them.

Digitalization of assets

As more and more people around me, I hold less and less documents on paper or other macroscopic media. Already, most of my documents are to be found in digital forms: private correspondence, files, invoices, contracts, tax documents, banking and accounting, books, music, photos, work documentation, etc. (more…)

Critique of CensusLiving between the linesNotesObservations

Citizen Awakening of the Data Subject?

In the wake of controversies over the census, Facebook and others

ObservationsSaturday, I cleaned the house while listening to a lecture by sociologist Saskia Sassen on the evolving concept of citizenship in a globalizing world recorded for the Big Ideas show (mp3, video). The conference focused on the multiple micro changes that globalization causes in the definition and experience of citizenship (or of the political subjectivity, in other words).

Sassen reminds us that while we tend to experience citizenship as an unitary condition, in fact citizenship is made of a whole bundle of components. At the heart of citizenship, there is a bundle of formal rights that are recognized by State. But there are as well around many other social elements that might not derive from our connection to the State (such as the physical environment of the city vs. the countryside). So one can unbundle citizenship to look as how each of these elements emerges, changes and disappears; thus how the whole idea of citizenship is evolving as a result.

This idea brought me back to that of a citizen awakening as data subject. A theme that corresponds to a wish I expressed as early as in 1988 in my contribution to the book Human Rights in Canada: Into the 1990s and Beyond.[1] Sassen’s lecture called this question to me: are we now also witnessing this historic micro change of the addition of the status of data subject into the consciousness of contemporary citizen? (more…)

Living between the linesNotesObservations

New Digital Divides: The Personalized “Filter Bubbles” Menacing Democracy

ObservationsInstead of linking humans together, could digital technologies isolate them from each other? Could personalization of web services produce ghettos? Could it threaten democracy itself? These are the dangers raised by Eli Pariser, president of MoveOn.org, on June 3, 2010, during the last Personal Democracy Forum.

Ethan Zuckerman reported his remarks. First, an example of a personalized conference:

“What if we came to an event like Personal Democracy Forum, and sorted ourselves by gender, age, political ideology, hometown. Pretty soon, we’d all be sitting in small rooms, all by ourselves. What if speakers then offered personalized talks, adding explosions for the young male listeners, for instance. “You’d probably like your personal version better… but it would be a bad thing for me to do.” It renders moot the point of a conference – we no longer have a common ground of speeches that we can discuss in the hallways.”

“Google uses 57 signals available to personalize the web for you, even if you’re not logged in. As a result, the results you get on a Google search can end up being very different, even if quite similar people are searching. Eli shows us screenshots of a search for “BP” conducted by two young women, both living in the North eastern US. They get very different results… one set focuses on business issues and doesn’t feature a link on the oil spill in the top three, while the other does. And one user got 141 million results, while the other got 180 million. Just imagine how different those results could be for very different users.”

(more…)

DebatesLiving between the linesNotes

Facebook remains a black box

Débats - DebatesYes, Facebook changed its publication of content controls (which may be improperly called confidentiality or privacy controls).

But as rightly points out the tweet of Privacy International signalling its response to this announcement, is the real question not elsewhere? Namely: how Facebook itself uses the information that members place on their pages? “The Real question: How Does Facebook Process Information?

No matter how you change publication controls or make them more user-friendly, the processing and uses that Facebook makes of the information continues to remain in the dark, poorly explained.

It’s quite like the classic black box. Facebook members know the information they themselves put on their page (inputs). They might better understand what information is published or not toward whom (outputs). However, they do not know exactly all of what happens between the two, especially everything about what Facebook exchanges with its trading partners.

This is where is the core of the processes that constitutes Facebook and its market value.

Living between the linesNotes

I Avoid The Word “Privacy” (And You Should Too)

About one obstacle to thinking about our relationships through information

Tablette d'écriture cunéiformeNotion addressed: Information (including personal information) and information technology play multiple growing roles in every aspect of the lives of individuals, groups and societies.

I was planning to write my own reading of the inquiry and recommendations of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada on the management of personal information by Facebook. However, I too often stumbled on the words “privacy” in the documentation of the Commissioner and articles from the media and other commentators. Too often not to publish beforehand this cautionary piece.

Early in my work, I became cautious with the use of the term “privacy“. It has so many different meanings that it becomes a genuine barrier to communication. More importantly, its use has become customary whenever it comes to discussing personal information handling. So much so that it now constitutes a real obstacle to the exercise of thinking specific usages and their social roles and implications. As a result, we also observe technical, social, economical and commercial failures. (more…)

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