☆ Thanks, ECJ!

While the USA has a day of general thanksgiving today, European citizens need to be especially thankful to the European Court of Justice for their decision that it is not lawful to require ISPs to monitor traffic on the networks they provide their customers. The actual ruling asserts:

EU law precludes the imposition of an injunction by a national court which requires an internet service provider to install a filtering system with a view to preventing the illegal downloading of files

Such an injunction does not comply with the prohibition on imposing a general monitoring obligation on such a provider, or with the requirement to strike a fair balance between, on the one hand, the right to intellectual property, and, on the other, the freedom to conduct business, the right to protection of personal data and the freedom to receive or impart information

LQdN has a good summary of the meaning of this decision, as does TechnoLlama.

And happy Thanksgiving to all my US friends!

✈ Liberty and Vigilance

In the Place de la Bastille in Paris, this statue stands at the top of a column commemorating the citizens of France who took up arms to finally rid themselves of a hereditary monarchy. Despite accepting its reinstatement a few years before, the king was creating unjust, self-serving laws without accountability and the citizens mounted “Occupy Paris” to end the problem. Hundreds died in the defence of liberty and the defeat of the unaccountable.

Which is why I find it deeply ironic to find surveillance cameras on the column.

☆ Bite-Size Privacy and Anonymity

Peeping SquirrelA discussion 1 2 3 4 broke out on Identi.ca recently where it became clear that the distinction between anonymity and privacy is not clear for some people. It led to the opportunity to discuss the nature of both concepts (albeit in 140-character bursts) with some smart people devoted to both, people I respect greatly. I’ve been left with some bite-sized explanations that I hope others will appreciate as well.

  • Privacy is the lifecycle of secrets once you have chosen to share them. Anonymity is where an act is publicly known but the actor is not.
  • Privacy is the duty to respect the data that has been disclosed to you. Anonymity is the right not to disclose the data in the first place.
  • Privacy is the duty of each and every entity with which we engage. Anonymity is a privilege each of us should be entitled to on the rare occasions we need it. (By privilege I mean that we are able to secure anonymity only by the grace of those who choose to supply the means for it to be possible. It is not a given – notably in China –  it must be granted.)
  • In daily life, we routinely expect our privacy to be respected by those with whom we engage. We rarely expect or need anonymity but on the occasions we do it must be absolute.
  • To create privacy, we need policies backed up by law that each recipient of our personal data must adhere to. To deliver anonymity, there needs to be a place where our connection with the net is anonymised, and the provision of that capability needs the active grace of its provider.
  • Anonymity requires privacy, but privacy does not require anonymity. (By this I mean that your connection to the internet is known to your ISP, and much else is known to many others, so to secure anonymity in a specific case requires the discretion of those individuals who could identify you if they chose to – and that discretion is called privacy.)

I’ll add further points as they arise. Discussion welcome!

Update: Just a few moments after posting I saw this great Bruce Schneier posting about the dynamics of privacy:

“So privacy for the government increases their power and increases the power imbalance between government and the people … Privacy for the people increases their power. It also increases liberty, because it reduces the power imbalance between government and the people.”

Update: I really like this initiative to create icons for privacy policies by the way.

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