Privacy and Big Data–Why everybody should care

As I have mentioned here, I am now the university’s Information Privacy Officer. As part of educating the campus on the increasing importance of privacy, especially as it relates to the electronic data about each of us sprinkled around the world, I’ve invited the University of Michigan’s Chief Privacy Officer, Sol Bermann, to give a talk on why privacy is something we all need to worry about. The talk will be Tuesday January 26 at 2 PM in Bernath Auditorium, UGL.

Here’s a formal notice.

Hope to see you there.

Amazon and Bestbuy are following me, and it’s creeping me out

BeAwareofWhatsBeingSharedYesterday I needed to find a price for a box of inkjet printer cartridges I have but no longer need (the printer broke and I bought a new one that uses different cartridges). I was trying to sell them.
This morning I visited my favorite political blog site, Reason Magazine’s Hit and Run and guess what showed up on the right hand side of the page–ads for Canon printers and HP inkjet cartridges. How did Hit and Run know?

Of course, they didn’t. But Amazon and Best Buy purchase ad space on lots of web pages, and my IP address is stored in various cookies, so totally unrelated sites know who I am and their ads target me. And what’s worse, one of those searches was on my iPhone, but the ad showed up on my office desktop.

So remember–if you’re searching for something sensitive, use an anonymized browser page (on Firefox select ‘New Private Window’, ‘New incognito window’ in Chrome, or in Safari a ‘Private Window’–these choices are usually available under the File menu, or at the three horizontal lines icon at the top left). Otherwise you may find ads for pregnancy tests or online tests for symptoms of schizophrenia showing up in your USA Today.

Bruce Schneier, my favorite IT security and privacy guru has a great column about how our mobile devices are now talking to our laptops and desktops and vice versa–long but worth a read:

Bruce Schneier on the Internet of Things

If this bothers you, or you are just interested in learning more about the relationship between privacy and Big Data, come hear Sol Bermann on January 26.


Several comics’ comments on those ‘click here to agree’ policies

Here is Steven Pastis’ (Pearls Before Swine) commentary:

Stephan Pastis' Commentary on App LIcenses

And a well-known comic strip artist has taken the iTunes End User License Agreement (EULA) and presented it as comic strip dialog in the style of a number of famous comic strip artists (including the authors of Garfield and Dilbert). There are numerous privacy-related issues that these ‘agreements’ raise.

Here is my colleague David Post’s thoughts on the latter.