Friday, September 4, 2009

Interact 2009, Uppsala - KeyNote 2: Nicklas Lundblad, "Lies, damn lies and privacy"

The second day of Interact2009 started with a keynote from Nicklas Lundblad, former European policy manager at Google and now deputy CEO of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce.
Nicklas started he talk with the insight that security today is an established field in companies, where as privacy is not: usually there no designated role for privacy in companies. The most established answer towards privacy is privacy-enhanced technology (PET) which is mostly cumbersome, implemented as an add-on, and not really perceived useful: the more privacy, the less usability.
As an example, the Icognito mode of web browsers allows to browse the web without leaving traces of what you've visited: mostly used at public computers, but the significant majority is porn.

Accordingly, privacy always incorporates, whether true or not, that the user wants to hide something. Nicklas played a quite exaggerating movie about the 'google' opt-out village:

Google Opt Out Feature Lets Users Protect Privacy By Moving To Remote Village

Then Nicklas gave some background of some quite exciting interpretations of privacy:

1. sphere of gaze
if you always keep in mind that you are under the watchful gaze of god you will be fine.
Nicklas gave an example of Benton's prison: a disciplinary prison - where the prisoner is put in the center of sphere and can be watched from all sides around - which refers to a concept of god being watched, more details can be found here.

2. privacy as a mask:
Nicklas called this the Swedish interpretation of privacy, a personal integrity concept, which allow you to keep your mask in front of others. You can experience these masks when you compare pictures of your friends on linked-in and with their's on facebook.

3. Privacy as a game
Privacy is about learning and playing with it. You learn to handle it and to care about it.

In former times there was no privacy at all: we all lived in villages, privacy only came with urbanization. In the village you are naturally risk-avert, because of if you fail you're entire reputation is lost. In urbanization, you can move somewere else, you become more risk-alert which triggers economic growth.
A growing counter-culture of lie emerges.

Most well explored sector of online lying is online-dating, 20% self-reported to ly on line sites, 90% even think that others lie.

Now, after a long introduction finally the main topic of the talk appeared:
How can you build privacy based on lie.

It followed some philosphical discurs about lying and it turned out it's a social evolution.
Nicklas proposed to support people to ly by technology: e.g. don't reject people on Facebook but rather introduce a mechanism to allows you to express your intend to confirm without disclosing your information - that would be ly on faceook.
Another approach was to apply steganography, turn emails into spam, and by that hiding your information in spam which again could be a mechanism for privacy based on ly (is the spam actually is not spam!).

Obviously, this approach has some problems. First of all ethical, as ly could destroy the internet, as social trust disolves and structure disappears. However, Nicklas added, lying is not a monolithic concept: there are also"white lies" as "you're looking beautiful today" and Nicklas asked "is there even a right to be able to lie?".

The talk concluded with some challenges: how to build prototypes to support ly, how people lie with technology (spam filter), is lying changing society? (ly less in email, than mobile). His talk is even available:

The lessons of this talk are not to be implemented right, but it least this talk triggered some thoughts and discussions. I find it nicely illustrates how still human are in control and design technology towards their needs, even along their defiencies...

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