"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris

Does Gmail Conflict with International Privacy Laws?

Posted: March 27th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Privacy & Security | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

An article from Canada’s Globe and Mail talks about some of the data privacy concerns facing Gmail users outside the US. Canada, like the UK and other countries outside of the US, has strong data protection laws for individuals. Canadian companies are required by law to keep user’s data private, and inform their users should any access occur. However Google is based in the US, and thus falls under the remit of the ever more evil and invasive US PATRIOT Act which allows the US Authorities to monitor, read and laugh at pretty much any email communication on a server in their jurisdiction.

Companies that use Google’s corporate services to provide email and other capabilities to their employees could be falling foul of a mix of international regulations. This either makes their use of Google’s services untenable going forward, or maybe Google just needs to start fragmenting into localized companies to deal with this issue. I’m not sure if just hosting the mail servers in each country mitigates the legal issues, or whether the parent company being US based is the main requirement, but I suspect that overseas servers would at least make the US enforcement services need to get a warrant of some kind for suspected ‘terrorists’ rather than ‘all you can eat’ data access for the 99.9999999% of innocent people in the US.

Facebook vs. Your Privacy

Posted: February 29th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Privacy & Security | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Somehow I’d managed to miss the bruhaha about Facebook licencing its users’ photos to newspapers – as witnessed in this case of the shooting of a 14 year old girl in Toronto this New Year. The situation was that the newspapers needed some images of the girl, and rather than just use the ones given out by the police or from the family, they went to the ‘source’ as it were and used some from her Facebook profile.

Wow. That seems to me to be a pretty blatent disregard for your user’s data privacy, and it’s seriously making me think that Facebook is not a good place to be right now. I understand that when I upload content to a social network that I should expect my friends to see it, and everyone if I’ve set the viewing privileges that way, but I’d never expect that content to get in a newspaper. Knowing what my little sister and her friends post on Facebook I’m sure they wouldn’t want any of that out in the public! I mean, people might not know exactly how much she likes kittens.

Perhaps it’s actions like this that will cause Facebook to lose all their visitors, as seems to be the trend right now. Of course it would require people to go somewhere else, as it’s now part of our modern culture to be connected with our friends and contacts over a social network. There are no outstanding candidates for the ‘next’ Facebook right now, however much some sites might think they are it looks like, for the time being at least, that Facebook is the last of the monolithic social sithttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifes. What’s coming down the line is a mix of personal control via your own website, feeds and posting aggregate feeds from sits like Twitter, combined with niche sites where you can focus your groups of contacts together – such as LinkedIn for business, or Flickr for photo friends.

Whatever happens, Facebook’s strikes seem to be coming hard and fast now which is never a good sign. As a company like that grows they have to maintain something of what made them popular in the first place, evolving it to meet the demands of their new users – not selling their user’s commodities in a fire sale when they get a chance. Imagine if Google started selling your search results – how quickly would you find another search engine? Anyways, that’s enough for now – I have to go build the next big social network to capture all Facebook’s users when they leave the sinking ship.