Tag Archives: freedom

Privacy and Identity on the Internet

Jeffrey Rosen, law professor at George Washington University (GWU), has called the current incarnation of the Internet “a digital world that never forgets” in a recent piece on privacy for the The New York Times.

It’s an astute article looking at the idea of segmented identities, the search for a way to safely control our online identities, and some interesting speculation on digital reputations and their possible importance in the future.

Of particular interest to me are two studies Rosen weaves into his story on how privacy on the Internet influences our lives and how we can be nudged to become more privacy aware:

According to a recent survey by Microsoft, 75 percent of U.S. recruiters and human-resource professionals report that their companies require them to do online research about candidates, and many use a range of sites when scrutinizing applicants — including search engines, social-networking sites, photo- and video-sharing sites, personal Web sites and blogs, Twitter and online-gaming sites. Seventy percent of U.S. recruiters report that they have rejected candidates because of information found online, like photos and discussion-board conversations and membership in controversial groups.

and:

According to M. Ryan Calo, who runs the consumer-privacy project at Stanford Law School, experimenters studying strategies of “visceral notice” have found that when people navigate a Web site in the presence of a human-looking online character who seems to be actively following the cursor, they disclose less personal information than people who browse with no character or one who appears not to be paying attention.

via @finiteattention

Northern Ireland’s Segregated Peace

Twelve years after the signing of the Belfast ‘Good Friday’ Agreement signalled an end to the Troubles, Northern Ireland is in a state of ‘segregated peace’, says Kevin Cullen, describing the situation.

Not only is there an official ethos of separate but equal, but an infrastructure underpinning it. There are three times as many so-called peace lines — elaborate walls separating working-class neighborhoods — than there were at the height of the Troubles, 88 of them at last count. […]

With segregation the status quo, there is an enormous duplication of public services, such as schools, community centers, and health clinics. The Alliance Party […] estimates that duplication of public services costs more than $1 billion a year, this in a place the size of Connecticut with a population of less than 2 million.

But it’s more than money that Northern Ireland is losing. It is losing the very kind of people that might change things. Some are voting with their feet, others simply not voting at all. Voting participation, which surged in the optimism following the Good Friday Agreement, has slumped. The brain drain, which saw educated young people head to England and everywhere else, slowed after everything looked possible in 1998. But it has picked up again, as a new generation that grew up without widespread violence concludes that peace is nice but not everything. So much creativity, energy, and productivity, lost across the Irish Sea.

via Link Banana

The CCTV Trade-Off

That CCTV doesn’t substantially help in reducing crime has been shown beyond reasonable doubt, proposes Bruce Schneier, so now the pressing question is whether or not the benefits security cameras do afford are worthwhile.

There are exceptions, of course, and proponents of cameras can always cherry-pick examples to bolster their argument. These success stories are what convince us; our brains are wired to respond more strongly to anecdotes than to data. But the data are clear: CCTV cameras have minimal value in the fight against crime. […]

The important question isn’t whether cameras solve past crime or deter future crime; it’s whether they’re a good use of resources. They’re expensive, both in money and in their Orwellian effects on privacy and civil liberties. Their inevitable misuse is another cost. […] Though we might be willing to accept these downsides for a real increase in security, cameras don’t provide that.

In August 2009 Schneier discussed a report that showed only one crime per thousand cameras per year is solved because of CCTV and quotes David Davis MP saying that “CCTV leads to massive expense and minimum effectiveness. It creates a huge intrusion on privacy, yet provides little or no improvement in security.”

A Home Office study also concluded that cameras had done “virtually nothing” to cut crime (although they were effective in preventing vehicle crimes in car parks), but do “help communities feel safer” (a case of classic security theatre).

Terrorism and Our Responses

Shortly after the Northwest Airlines Flight 253 incident, Bruce Schneier provided links to a number of articles that published interviews, quotes or essays from him. As expected, Schneier calmly reiterates his old advice that is as valid now as it was pre-9/11.

The one not to miss: Is aviation security mostly for show?

The best defenses against terrorism are largely invisible: investigation, intelligence, and emergency response. But even these are less effective at keeping us safe than our social and political policies, both at home and abroad. […]

Despite fearful rhetoric to the contrary, terrorism is not a transcendent threat. A terrorist attack cannot possibly destroy a country’s way of life; it’s only our reaction to that attack that can do that kind of damage. The more we undermine our own laws, […] the more we reduce the freedoms and liberties at the foundation of our societies, the more we’re doing the terrorists’ job for them. […]

We’d do much better by leveraging the inherent strengths of our modern democracies and the natural advantages we have over the terrorists: our adaptability and survivability, our international network of laws and law enforcement, and the freedoms and liberties that make our society so enviable.

In an interview with The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg Schneier was asked if we are “moving toward the Israelification” of airport security. Unsure what Israelification referred to, a quick search led to an excellent article discussing how airport security works in Israel:

Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don’t take s— from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for — not for hours — but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, ‘We’re not going to do this. You’re going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport.

That, in a nutshell is “Israelification” – a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death.

Interestingly, a large proportion of Israel’s airport security is rooted in behavioural profiling: the meta-data.

Ability to Inhibit Prejudices Diminishes with Age

As we age we become less able to inhibit prejudiced inferences, relying more on ethnic and sexist stereotypes to interpret situations, research into the science of prejudice suggests.

There are a lot of clichés thrown around about the elderly, but one that seems to be true—or at least is backed up by research—is the belief they tend to be more prejudiced than younger people. This phenomenon—noted in The New York Times as early as 1941—is widely assumed to be the result of socialization. After all, today’s senior citizens grew up in an era when racism was widespread and gays stayed in the closet. Of course they aren’t as open-minded as their children and grandchildren.

A decade ago, a research team led by William von Hippel of the University of Queensland challenged that assumption. The psychologists proposed that older people may exhibit greater prejudice because they have difficulty inhibiting the stereotypes that regularly get activated in all of our brains. They suggested an aging brain is not as effective in suppressing unwanted information—including stereotypes.

Matthew Yglesias recently noted that current marriage equality acceptance in the U.S. decreases with age, suggesting that equal marriage rights are inevitable as the older generations cease to have voting power and/or die. When I consider this in light of the above, however, I wonder if this really is the case?

via Intelligent Life

The abstracts of the two papers discussed in this article: Stereotype Activation, Inhibition, and Aging and Aging and Stereotype Suppression.