“Can you not understand that liberty is worth more than just ribbons?”—George Orwell, Animal Farm
Orwell’s themes have an uncanny knack of magnifying many of the issues that arise weekly in privacy news. Trust, respect and transparency have all been betrayed by Catch of the Day as reported this week by Australia’s privacy commissioner, who was only recently alerted to the privacy breach that compromised many customers three years ago. The resulting customer backlash and brand damage is not surprising. It again raises the importance of organisations doing all they can to mitigate damage to consumers, which in some cases naturally suggests data breach notification. The importance of showing respect to consumers in regard to the management of their data and its storage, as in the widely reported Pound Road Medical Centre decision last week, cannot be overemphasized. Arrogant disregard for reasonable measures is not good for businesses or their customers.
We will leave the topic of animal privacy to Voiceless, but two stories of how we use technology with our four-legged friends do have impacts for privacy. There is an interesting story on the benefits of big data and sheep farming, another positive argument which isn’t hard to extrapolate to the human world, and then there are the cats. The cute or grumpy cat photos uploaded onto photo-sharing sites may include the location of their owners. Naturally, the application could extend beyond to baby photographs and those of our youth who are particularly keen on constant streams of photo uploads with more-than-spooky consequences: “I know where your cat lives” becomes “I know where your daughter lives.”
This brings us to the interesting story of Google’s new policy on anonymisation, which, of course, is a double-edged sword. It may help individuals, but it will almost certainly also help the trolls. Enabling users to hack websites is clearly at risk of being used by the hackers themselves. I wonder if “two legs are better than four” in working this one out.
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