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April 25, 2007

Eben Moglen: Freedom Businesses Protect Privacy

The first keynote of Wednesday morning at MySQL Conf 2007 is Even Moglen, a professor at Columbia currently on leave, serving as the Chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center.

Eben describes some of the very early ways that information and experiences were captured. He talks about the mind as the place where experiences were stored. Pictures in the mind are kept as a part of our memory.

Privacy is not just the big secret you have that you don't want anyone to know. Identity theft is not just someone knowing four pieces of information. The loss of privacy people looking at your data and inferring what you will do next. The powerful organizations of the future will be able to aggregate.

Your browsing history used to be in the browser. Now it is a service. You give all of your browsing history to someone else who provides your history to you but then requires you to give them premission and ownership of making inferences from your browsing history.

This will replace broadcasting. It will provide capability to bring you advertising when you need id. Things like your contacts, payments, photo library, shared video preferences, Amazon wishlists will make this possible. Spam is getting good. It is getting better and better at targeting Eben and knowing things he's genuinely interested in.

Research shows that younger kids are more aware of privacy issues on MySpace and Facebook than adults thinks they are.

Eben proposes one solution might be to store this data ourselves. The technologoly of memory isn't the problem, it's the solution of where we put that data. Should we have a pack-it-in, pack-it-out solution on digital data? Is it OK to hire data sherpas to get us to the top of Everest?

Free software is very important. Collectively we build this. We decide how much privacy we want. We decide how memory determines social power.

"Do no evil" might be true now, but down the road it is not possible to tell how the collection of all of this data will impact our society.

Posted by mike at April 25, 2007 8:58 AM