In world news, we have ACTA, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, alleged to target Counterfeit Trade, which is kind of funny when you consider that Big Data is now heading towards being a 50 Billion Dollar Industry by 2017 (LinkedIn headline). So what does big business actually want from our big data? Why are they so concerned with the ability to manage the who, what, where and how of our use of it?
According to https://secure.avaaz.org/en/eu_save_the_internet_spread/?fFvDQcb&pv=349 ACTA - a global treaty - could allow corporations to censor the Internet. Negotiated in secret by a small number of rich countries and corporate powers, it would set up a "shadowy new anti-counterfeiting body to allow private interests to police everything that we do online and impose massive penalties -- even prison sentences -- against people they say have harmed their business." This is nicely summarized on the North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology.
Why is this happening? Didn't we win on SOPA and PIPA? (Ding Dong The Witch, SOPA And PIPA Are Dead) We certainly would like to stop the malicious destruction of our business. Confusing privacy with free speech, however, is not the answer. We have laws designed to prevent people from recklessly harming our business, but our digital footprint includes people reacting to us. We are that whole picture of actions up to now, trends, aggregated judgments are given a full range in times and circumstance. Beyond criminal acts, who we include if people did or did not like us. Big business doesn't get too quiet any of that.
We are a set of behaviors that continuously evolve a pattern of what we currently do, and most likely will do in the future. Our digital reputation is becoming as salient as our fingerprints. That we can be profiled is not new information, but that we operate with knowledge of that profiling is to me, at least, the point of this game.
Please, consider reading "Even Without Cookies, A Browser Leaves a Trail of Crumbs", copyright Ars Technica © 2012 Condé Nast Digital. The article goes into many of the same details mentioned in our recent featureAre We Ready To Be A Society In The Cloud?
The "trail of crumbs" revealed in the review of Panopticlick, however, reveals that our signature behaviors are not removed when we "Opt Out" of advertising. Even if the SOPA ruling had passed, and even with the EU Data Privacy cookie law, we still create so many unique signatures that it's just not possible to be entirely anonymous in the cloud. We have to create greater protection over our rights to do what we do, not hide what we do. It's out there. There's no turning it back.
We can protect a transaction, but it's unlikely we will ever prevent knowledge and record that the transaction exists. We become users of banks, of medical facilities, of retail communities. We don't need names. Our digital DNA is already there.
Consider that when we use the internet to do our banking, communicate with our doctors, to engage in double-blind drug trial reporting, we might as well be walking into their front lobby, wearing a name tag and smiling for a camera. There are things that must remain private, but that we do private things appear to be a record that is completely off the table. We can stop doing business with people who damage our reputation, and we should.
Let's think about routine browsing and computing. You might have a twitter and facebook account. If you take a moment to review your twitter and facebook followers, you'll probably discover that at least one follower was directing people to a porn site and another is just a bot marketing a product. You might block and report the one and just block or delete the other. Now consider if that was your thirteen-year-old daughter's account. Who was responsible for noting the bot and the porn redirect? Did you consider that a follower might be listed on the http://www.familywatchdog.us/ National Registry of Sex offenders?
Dara Kerr, a writer for CNET, writes yet another thought provoking article Judge tosses law barring sex offenders from Facebook representing the issues involved where a federal judge rightly defends that a Louisiana law was meant to keep registered sex offenders from networking with minors online, included too many types of Web sites in its restrictions. Therefore, the law was thrown out. Kerr explains "The law in question went into effect in Louisiana last August. It deemed that anyone convicted of a sex offense against a minor or of video voyeurism was banned from using networking Web sites, chat rooms, and peer-to-peer sites. Judge Jackson decided that the scope of the law was too broad and that hundreds of sites fit within its definition of networking, including the court's own Web site. The law imposes "a sweeping ban on many commonly read news and information Web sites," he said, according to the AP."
I think (Robin Basham, the writer) that we need to speak up in support of this decision. We can't hold social sites accountable to the behaviors of the sex offender. If law wants to restrict the use of communication, then we need to delay parole and limit computer use in prison. We need parole officers to evaluate the web traffic of that offender. It's not like he or she doesn't have a digital footprint. Put that restriction on the source. The responsibility for monitoring sex offenders who are networking with minors is with law officials, parents, and schools. We need to review computer use in institutions with children under 18 and in our homes.
We will never have a preventive measure that can replace the vigilance of appropriately placed detective measures.
If a person is found to use an identity for soliciting minors, Facebook has the policy to block them. Facebook owns its infrastructure. They have the right to block the ip address. I know I would and I do.
So back to ACTA, and the question that hounds me, Are We Ready to Be A Society in the Cloud? We can't create controls for society by restricting the network. People need to be accountable to understanding technology and bringing our integrity to our laws into business values, which now include Business in the Cloud.
(Note about the image. I did not take it. It is listed as http://static.doldigital.net/webstatic/CCF2CFB4D21F9574AF1DEA0D9D933641.jpg, and I am investigating if it is public. For now, it appears to be.)