Monday, February 20, 2012

Preventing the Ubiquitous Computing Cloud Privacy Nightmare

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Mark Ryan, from University of Birmingham, is speaking on "The future of privacy". He started by mentioning Google Goggles, which allow a traveler to point a smart phone at a scene and have it annotated with useful informatory, or at a document and have it translated. He pointed out that Google Goggle and Apple Siri (which answers natural language questions) depend on "The Cloud".

In the future you may be able to point the phone at a person and have it display information about that person. In the future this might be via an implanted device, with a direct brain interface: you look at someone and the thought of who they are will come to you.

The information already available on-line is privacy invasive, but this is not so noticeable as it is not so readily correlated and accessed. Mark pointed out that individuals already trade off privacy for collective benefits, such as providing details to the tax office.

Mark divide the privacy risk into big brother (government), middle brother (corporations) and little brother (individuals). I am not sure the distinctions are that useful.

The "UK Interception Modernisation Programme " and MI5/MI6 have asked for access to the Oyster transport ticketing database. Mark suggested that such data could be in escrow, with access being justified, a situation he described as "verifiable-conditional".

One innocent looking example Mark pointed out Facebook "Like" on a web page has privacy implications. Not only are Facebook users tracked when they visit a web page, but anonymous users as well.

Mark used academic conference reviewing systems, such as EasyChair, have privacy problems. He helped create "ConfiChair", which encrypts information about each conference so all the data can't be harvested.

After the talk I asked Mark what was it about he secondment at Hewlett Packard changed his life (I was asked to ask this on the Link Mailing List). He commented that this was something he had added to his bio as an afterthought, but it was something he had been asked about at every talk. Mark described how,as a visitor at HP, he had new insights into how applied research was done. He gave the example of analysis of the security of the Trusted Platform Module (TPM). While that sounds only of academic interest the TPM is built into millions of communications devices and is relied on for security.

cycle access from the Worcester and Birmingham Canal to the University of Birmingham campusps: Getting off the topic, Mark commented he would like cycle access from the Worcester and Birmingham Canal to the University of Birmingham campus. I promised I would blog that to see if it would encourage action (in contrast ANU Cycleways have easy access to the campus).

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