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Posts with keyword: privacy

The role of security focused alternatives

Our digital lives are more or less governed by very few providers of products and services. Our desktop computing is almost invariably based on Microsoft Windows, our document collaboration is most likely based on either Google Docs or on O365, our instant messaging is either Whatsapp or Slack, our video collaboration is either Teams or Zoom, etc. Given the prevalence of digital life and work, you would expect more options to exist. However, all those large pies seem to each be divided into just a few thick slices each. Those lucky providers that won their dominance did so by catering to the needs of the masses while serving their own agendas, or more accurately: by serving their own agendas while giving enough to make their products preferable by the masses.

Customers appreciate ease of deployment and ease of use, and all of the dominant products excel in that. However, customers never said anything too explicit about security and customers never demanded data sovereignty. Those properties are also very non-compelling for some providers, either because they increase cost, because they prevent lock-in, or because they hinder business models that rely on using customer data. The vast majority of customers never really required, and hence never really got, anything more than ease of use and ease of deployment, along a few key functional features. For most customers, this is enough, but customers who also require security, privacy, and/or data sovereignty, face a challenge when working out alternatives.

But alternatives do exist, for desktop computing, for collaboration and for messaging and video communication. Those alternatives play an important role in our digital ecosystem, even if most people never care to use them.

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The effect of cloud services on our intimacy with IT

Years ago, we did not trust cloud service providers, or we trusted them only when we had no choice. Then, consumers started using web-mail and other such services, and finally companies also moved into replacing their own IT with cloud applications. By now, we trust our service providers sufficiently, for the most part. We model our risks, we consider the benefits, and we usually decide that it’s worth it. But often enough, our trust in service providers still does not cause us the necessary warm and fuzzy feeling that is required for us to hand off all our data to the cloud and live a truly digital life. As it seems, thinking you are secure is one thing, and feeling you are sufficiently secure, even with your most critical data, is something else.

What do we do for now? – Use the cloud, but not for everything…

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Book review: "Permanent Record"

The book “Permanent Record” is best known for its author, Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who released enormous amounts of secret NSA documents to the press, alleging that the intelligence community in the US violates the rights of citizens for privacy by implementing wide-reaching programs of wholesale surveillance. This is the second book I review that discusses Ed Snowden and his revelations; the previous book I reviewed was “No Place to Hide” by journalist Glenn Greenwald.

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Time to reclaim the Internet

We grow increasingly reliant on quite a few Internet-based services: social networks, messaging, photo sharing, and the rest. The challenges we face with privacy, data ownership enforcement, surveillance, and other aspects of digital abuse could all be substantially reduced if those data sharing needs were addressed by the Internet as it was originally architected: decentralized and open. We have waited very long, and so remediation would take more than just new standards, but it is doable.

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Book review: "Data and Goliath"

After sitting in my reading list for years, I finally got to read “Data and Goliath” by Bruce Schneier. Overall, this book is as well written as all of Schneier’s books, and is just as scientifically accurate (to the best that I could tell). However, whoever the audience for his book is, they may find it missing essential parts that make it not just a pleasant read, but also a useful one.

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TEDTalk review: "Why Privacy Matters" by Glenn Greenwald

TED published an excellent talk: Why Privacy Matters, by Glenn Greenwald.

Seldom do I call an online lecture “a must for all audience", but the TED lecture by Glenn Greenwald is worth such an enforcement. Glenn Greenwald is one of the key reporters who published material based on the leaks of Edward Snowden. He also wrote a good book about it called “No Place to Hide"; a book on which I wrote a review about 6 months ago.

If you know that privacy is important, but cannot explain why people who’ve done nothing wrong need it, or worse yet, if you really do not see why a surveillance state is bad also for law-abiding citizens, then you must listen to this. It packs hours of social, psychological, and public policy discussions into a few minutes.

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Data about you is never thrown away

I was quoted by The Enquirer saying that we shall all assume that data (from wearables and otherwise) that is collected by service providers will never be deleted. The data collected by wearables is only as protected as the network that holds it – and it is likely to be stored indefinitely.

The trend today, given the ever-decreasing cost of storage, is to store data forever. A CIO will prefer to pay a bit more for a little more disk space than risk his job and company prosperity by deciding to discard data that is one day determined to have been useful.”

EDITED TO ADD: This story was also pubished by USA Today, and others.

A gift from Snowden to the European economy

The revelations made by Edward Snowden did not show us anything that we never thought possible. It did reveal, however, that many of the things that were possible in theory found their way to reality. Those revelations also gave opportunity for many of the chronic paranoids and conspiracy-theorists to say “I told you". Fact is, digital life causes us to rely on more and more service providers, in the shape of government agencies and private organizations, and those providers were now caught violating our trust. When we buy products and services, we trust their provider to follow the norms we believe it follows. When such trust breaks, we need to think what next. In my opinion, this situation forms an opportunity for Europe to catch up.

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Book review: "No place to hide" by Glenn Greenwald

I just finished reading the book “No Place to Hide“, by the journalist Glenn Greenwald. The book talks about the revelations from Edward Snowden on the actions taken by the NSA, as well as about their implications. It is not the  book you can’t take your hands off, but it is certainly a worthy read and conveys a very well elaborated message.

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Book review: Little Brother

I have just finished reading Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. This book presents the story of a typical but tech savvy teenager who falls victim to harassment by the Department of Homeland Security and the police state, where every citizen is constantly tracked and monitored as a potential terrorist. The story is fictitious, of course, but those who follow the reaction of some nations to the terrorism threat and the ever increasing amplitude and sophistication of wholesale surveillance, cannot miss that while the story is factually fictitious, it is not at all implausible.

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