Final statement Bart Van Puyvelde

To formulate my final statement, I will explain my view on privacy an its roots. In my opinion, people aren’t perfect, because they are a product of evolution. Therefore they have evolved in a creature that only excels in skills that come in handy for the survival of it’s genome. This is how shallow we are, an as the matter of fact, we all are. This means there is in fact competition between every single human being, but alliances are forged there where it comes in handy for every single individual of the alliance.
Because people communicate people have invented something to hide their week spots, as to fool their competitors and come out of the battle as the winner. That invention they called the secret. People started creating an elaborate collection of secrets through the times, going from the looks of their genitals to the access codes to their bank accounts, from the fact that they cheat on their lover to the information that might make them rich.
Secrets have tons of uses for each individual on its financial terms, in their lovelife, and other personal affairs. Even for the common good, secrets have their uses. Although, there is something dirty about secrets and that’s the fact that you don’t share them with anybody, thus keeping people stupid. Because from an evolutionary point of view people don’t want to be kept stupid, people started to conceive tricks to pilfer the information kept secret by others.
But of course, people don’t want the information to be shared, for they will expose their weak spots to whoever steals that information. That is where privacy came in. Privacy is a term that covers the entire collection of socially accepted secrets people have gathered during their lives. Offending this privacy became a crime. So what this means is that it is prohibited to steal information that is socially accepted to keep secret. For instance, nobody will blame you for keeping your pin code secret. Therefore, it is still prohibited to steal access information to your bank account.
However, the hunt should still be open on those other secrets, let’s call them harmful secrets. This is for instance the fact that somebody stole some money, cheated on her boyfriend or that somebody spies on the girl next door. These secrets are harmful because they prevent the society from stopping a harmful situation to recur.
In the beginning it looks easy. People have access to information that is shared between all the individuals of society and people should have access to the information stored in the harmful secrets. All the socially accepted secrets should be protected at all times. Nevertheless, there is a catch. It seems secrets are almost never plain, simple and one-sided.
For instance, a person is addicted to gambling. This addiction makes him a weak person in society and an unattractive mate. However, he doesn’t harm anybody with his addiction, so if he decides to keep it secret, it is socially accepted. The secret becomes part of his privacy. However, because this is a very costly addiction he starts stealing. Of course, this makes him a dishonest person and even a worse mate. Moreover, he risks some kind of revenge or punishment for his crimes. Therefore, he decides to keep this also secret.
Of course, money is counted and people notice money is being stolen. The community starts searching for the culprit. Because the culprit is one of the suspects, people want to see where the man gets his money from and how much he can spend along the way. In this case it seems likely the gambling addict is discovered both as a gambling addict as a thief.
This example shows that sometimes a secret starts to conceal a seemingly socially accepted piece of information, but as time progresses, also harmful secrets get involved in the story. So a first subject of discussion comes to the forefront. How much can we violate one ‘s privacy to stop harmful things happening to society? Especially when we don’t know the content of any secret, what is an inherent property of a secret.
Subsequently, there is a problem with the process of discovering secrets. You never know exactly what you are looking for, thus, all processes are indiscriminate towards any kind of information. I give another example to prove this point. You know there is a group of people and you know that three people visit their mistress on a regular basis. One person however, meets up with terrorist regularly. You don’t know who is the terrorist and you don’t know where all the contacts live. It becomes clear that you can figure out who is the terrorist by following every individual.
The logical outcome is that you can track down the terrorist, but on the other side, you discovered three very juicy scandals about the three adulterers.
You see that even though I haven’t even discussed a single piece of technology, the subject of privacy becomes already pretty complicated. It seems like it is hard to avoid every form of privacy violation if we want to protect all public interests, but where can we draw the line? What is possible and for what use?
For the technology, I personally think all of the products available on the market today can be used for good and for bad things. Just banishing the products from our daily life is almost never a good option. For instance, you can strangle somebody with a piano snare, you can cut somebody with a knife or you can shoot somebody with a gun. You can even club the person to death with a baseball bat.
It is hard to imagine all those products should be banished from society. To be honest, if we look into every product we encounter, it can be used in a harmful or in a useful way. If we look into regulations about armaments, you can in fact have piano wire, knifes, guns and blunt objects in your house. Note that you do need a gun license if you want to keep a gun and that you have to store the gun and its ammunition in separate places.
You can’t, however, bring any of these objects to a soccer game. This has probably something to do with the fact that the chance you want to harm somebody in a soccer stadium with one of these tools is much higher than the chance you want to cut your steak, mend your piano or hunt for game. What is also interesting is that it is illegal to possess knuckle dusters, while they won’t help you much in a fight against somebody with a legal knife.
Probably that is because the chance that you will use your knuckle dusters for a useful reason is rather small. However, it looks very assumable that somebody who buys a knife has some meat to process. So the conclusion I make here is that law should be designed to minimize the use of objects for harmful things, while maximizing their useful use. The use of every tool should be regulated, while keeping the law as simple as possible.
If we look into the subject of observation technology, I think the same moral laws can be applied and materialized. There are technologies that can be produced and distributed in a very uncontrolled fashion, such as professional space telescopes. These are very sophisticated technologies, but the chance that they are used to violate anyone’s privacy, for instance by trying to discover if astronauts masturbate, is relatively small. On the other side, these things can be used for useful research about our universe.
At the other side, the privacy violation equivalent of a firearm is a directional microphone or a wiretap. There aren’t many things one can do with such a thing besides listening to conversations that are supposed to be secret. It is obvious that such technologies are to be distributed with great care, only to be given to those who really need it for their job in those situations in which we know it will have enough interest for the common good. But things are not always black and white. What do we do with binoculars? Everybody has a pair of them somewhere, yet they are very easy to use for spying on people. The opinion of every person will be different. This is of course because everybody has different kinds of secrets and the path to their discovery is always different.
Also, it is impossible to discuss the effectiveness of each technology. It is impossible to research which technologies can replace which at which price. Because of this, it is impossible to state a proper law to prevent abuse of these technologies.
This results in the fact that I support only a very small amount of preventive regulations towards privacy protection, for there is just too much versatility for most of these technologies. There are however, some technologies that you can forbid, like hidden cameras, but the list remains small. Certainly if you see how easy it is to hide a microphone or any camera system.
I think that it is wise to punish severely if an unauthorized privacy violation is noticed, while not taking too many preventive measures. But then again, how would you gather the proof of this violation, for instance camera recordings?
I thank you. Bart

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Final statement: Karel Gallée

Advanced observation and measuring techniques will be a problem for our privacy

As technologies evolve, our privacy is violated more often than ever before. This topic is since the beginning of mankind very important and so personal privacy is an acknowledged human right. Probably the most known subject is the use of CCTV cameras as they already exist for several decades. More advanced problems are the huge flows of information on the internet, the use of smart phones with locating devices, special scanners(x-ray), the possibility to store data in enormous amounts (including the modern computer power), etc. In our blog we discussed several of these subjects. Also the reasons why our privacy is violated were overlooked. It was tried to find general solutions or conclusions for these problems in our blog.

Privacy problems can be divided into several causes. First of all privacy can be violated for the public security and to fight crime. Most of the time this is done by the government. For example, special security services (like CIA, etc) will have the most information about anyone and also the biggest budget to process it. Most of the times these agencies work “over” the law or are an exception. In a democratic country although, this information will not be abused. The visible observation, like cameras and scanners at airports, are normally regulated by law and not abused. Still, the problem is that most of the time, you are being watched without that it is necessary. As these techniques get cheaper they are getting widespread. The public opinion will always be divided in groups, some people will give up their privacy for security and others won’t. As long as these groups are in a certain balance, the level of observation will stay “tolerable”.

Some possibilities to restrain and improve this observation:

  • Only at important places, shopping malls, airports, etc.
  • Only use the information when problems occur
  • People should be aware that they are observed

Probably most of these ideas already exist in laws but with all new technical possibilities it will be hard to continuously keep these laws up to date.

CCTV cameras are still the most used way for observation. In the UK only, 1.85 million cameras are used. “New research by the ACPO lead on CCTV, Graeme Gerrard, estimates that the number of cameras is 1.85 million. That are cameras that are focused on public spaces including streets and pavements, retail outlets, commercial premises, public transport and other areas which the public can access in their day-to-day activities.”[1] The law enforcement and organizations using CCTV should keep this number down by choosing the places they want to observe. The control and storage of CCTV systems and their data is very important and should be controlled. Communications between organizations using CCTV should be limited.[2] A technical solution for abuse of CCTV systems is not existing as continuously new techniques are developed like “facial recognition” and cameras that are becoming smaller with a higher resolution. These are factors that make CCTV even more attractive.

Another big threat to privacy is the huge amount of information gathered on the internet. Social network sites are probably the biggest problem. Although applications like “Google Earth” and “Street View” are also becoming a problem. In France, Google is already sentenced to a fine because they violated privacy with the “Street View” application.[3] “The possibilities of privacy invasion through tools that are freely available on the internet are big. Examples are: Myspace, Facebook, blogs, etc. and also companies like Google or even Domino’s Pizza that use data-mining to get a profile of their customers.” [4] Better regulations and a stronger public opinion should protect our privacy on the internet. Technical solutions are software applications protecting our privacy while surfing.

A new technique for locating people is called “Skyhook”. I will use my definition from the blog: “Skyhook is a software development kit that producers of mobile devices( phones, laptops, PDA’s,…) can use to locate their mobile devices… It uses GPS, cell tower triangulation and WIFI to locate you. This system works from rural to urban areas, indoors and outside. The special thing about this is the “WIFI-locating mode” for inside houses, cities… It uses all WIFI – access points it knows, also your home wireless network. Every WIFI router has its own MAC address (private?), by searching and locating as many routers ass possible by “wardriving”[5], they have, especially in cities, a covered network to locate you if you have a WIFI device with skyhook on it.”[6] As it is an open source software kit, abuse is not far away. Probably this technique will not be a real problem for privacy in future because most people won’t have the skills to abuse it. It will be more “dangerous” because of the abuse by criminals and “extreme” forms of advertising( shop around the corner) as even strong existing regulations cannot stop advertising companies.  Also the feeling that you can be tracked everywhere will not be pleasant for everyone.

With technology becoming better and cheaper another problem pops up. Spyshops sell equipment making it easy to violate someone’s privacy at relatively low costs. This can cause privacy problems between individuals. Spyshops sell gadgets like GPS trackers, voice recorders in pens/gsm’s that can be activated by calling to them.. and so on. On the other hand, these shops sell interesting things to protect your privacy. For example, untraceable phones, encoders for messages, VoIP, etc. As these shops are a major problem for privacy, strong regulations for or even the abolishment of spyshops are solutions.

My Conclusion:
It is hard to define explicit solutions for privacy matters as we are not specialists in this branch. I think the most important factor is knowledge. When people are aware of the possible technologies and the fact that there privacy is violated, they can decide for themselves whether it is problem or not. The information given through organizations and the state should be transparent and clear and most importantly more information campaigns should be held. Stronger regulations on the use of these technologies (who can use them and how) and continuously updating the laws and values in discussion with many interest groups are probably a good idea.
The most important factors to preserve privacy and freedom of speech are people with common sense and a sufficient education forming a democratic society resulting in the necessary laws.







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Final Statement Jitse Buelens

1. Oorspronkelijk statement

Advanced observation and measurement techniques will be a problem for our privacy.”[1]

In het oorspronkelijk statement staan er 2 belangrijke woorden die nodige uitleg verschaffen, namelijk privacy en observatietechnieken.

Indien we denken aan observatietechnieken komt er direct een oeroud voorbeeld naar boven, de bewakingscamera. Welke algemeen gekend is en in verschillende vormen te zien is op allerlei openbare plaatsen. Deze relatief eenvoudige observatietechniek is nog steeds de meest gebruikte en eveneens gekend als CCTV (Closed Circuit Television). Een recentere techniek is de X-ray full body scanner die voornamelijk gebruikt wordt op Amerikaanse luchthavens.

Privacy is een ruim begrip welke niet echt te definiëren valt, maar kan beter omschreven worden. Daarom zijn er ook verschillende definities te vinden voor privacy. Ik heb er één uitgenomen, die naar mijn inzicht privacy het best beschrijft.

Privacy is een afweerrecht dat de persoonlijke levenssfeer en persoonlijke gegevens beschermt. Het betekent dat men dingen kan doen zonder dat de buitenwereld daar inbreuk op maakt of weet van heeft. “ [2]

2. Wetten

 Privacy is een recht welke in verschillende internationale verdragen staat, ondermeer in artikel 22 van de Belgische Grondwet en in artikel 17 van het “VN verdrag voor Burgerlijke en Politieke rechten”, in deze laatste staat:

 “Niemand mag worden onderworpen aan willekeurige of onwettige inmenging in zijn privéleven, zijn gezinsleven, zijn huis en zijn briefwisseling, noch aan onwettige aantasting van zijn eer en goede naam.” “Een ieder heeft recht op bescherming door de wet tegen zodanige inmenging of aantasting.” [2]

Deze wetten beschermen de privacy aangezien schenders vervolgd kunnen worden. In België controleert een onafhankelijk overheidsorgaan, namelijk de “Commissie voor de bescherming van de persoonlijke levenssfeer (CBPL)”, of de privacywetten worden nageleefd. Via moderne technologie is het mogelijk om iemand zijn privacy te schenden ver over de landsgrenzen (bv. via satelliet), waardoor internationale wetten van toepassing zijn. Omdat privacy sterk verschilt tussen verschillende culturen, zal het opstellen of verbeteren van deze wetten echter moeilijk zijn. Vervolgens moeten deze nog aanvaard worden door elk land, wat ook geen sinecure is. Bijvoorbeeld de mensenrechten zijn nog steeds niet overal aanvaard. Eens deze wetten opgesteld zijn, moeten deze ook nageleefd worden. Dit zal wellicht het grootste probleem zijn en is reeds het geval (Bijvoorbeeld Amerika schendt zijn eigen privacywetten door het gebruik van full body scanners op luchthavens).

Buiten de algemene wetten, die privacy louter omschrijven, is het noodzakelijk om duidelijke regels op te stellen betreffende het gebruik van observatietechnieken.

Personen die geobserveerd worden moeten zich hiervan bewust zijn. In België is het verplicht te vermelden indien personen gefilmd worden. In banken, tankstations en zelfs in bussen van De Lijn waar er gefilmd wordt is dit vermeld. Dit moet doorgetrokken worden naar andere technieken, waar het soms minder duidelijk is dat deze gebruikt worden. Denk maar aan het misbruik van klantenkaarten in de supermarkten om onze aankopen bij te houden.

Het moet ook duidelijk zijn waarom deze techniek gebruikt wordt en wat er met de data wordt gedaan. Het voorbeeld van SkyHook is hier van toepassing. De technologie van SkyHook bestaat erin om de gebruikers te voorzien van handige diensten en informatie, aangepast aan hun locatie. De locatie van de gebruiker wordt door SkyHook beschermd en mag alleen voor deze doeleinden gebruikt worden, indien dit niet zo is moet dit vermeld worden. Als er gegevens van een persoon worden gebruikt, dan moet deze exact weten welke gegevens (bij SkyHook is dit de locatie van een persoon) deze zijn en wat ermee gedaan wordt. Zoveel mogelijk transparantie is dus de boodschap.

Eerst en vooral is het de plicht van het bedrijf zelf om de gegevens van zijn klanten te beschermen. Indien het uitkomt dat gegevens van een klant misbruikt zijn, kan dit het bedrijf in een slecht daglicht stellen en andere gebruikers tot nadenken zetten. Verder is er ook nog een externe controle nodig. In België wordt dit gedaan door het CBPL. Indien de privacy aangetast wordt, moeten hiervoor aangepaste straffen worden uitgesproken. Deze straffen moeten van die aard zijn dat ze een invloed hebben op de misbruiker. Google is bijvoorbeeld bestraft op het schenden van de privacy, terwijl ze zelf een uitgebreid privacybeleid [3] hebben. Indien Google een geringe geldboete krijgt (relatief t.o.v. van de omzet van het bedrijf) kan het deze zonder enige moeite betalen en doorgaan met het schenden van de privacy. Een strengere opvolging door een extern orgaan en aangepaste straffen zijn dus noodzakelijk.

“Google heeft toegegeven dat de bedrijfswagens van Google Street View drie jaar lang persoonlijke informatie hebben opgeslagen van mensen die surften via draadloze netwerken. Het bedrijf biedt zijn verontschuldigingen aan.” [4]

3. Technologie

Technologie blijft zich steeds ontwikkelen, bijgevolg zullen er altijd nieuwe observatietechnieken ontstaan die mogelijk de privacy kunnen schenden. Het oorspronkelijk doel van deze technieken is een positieve bijdrage bijbrengen. Maar elke medaille heeft zijn keerzijde, er zullen altijd wel individuen zijn die een manier vinden om deze technologie te misbruiken.

Sommige observatietechnieken worden specifiek ontwikkeld voor de veiligheid. Denk maar aan de  X-ray full body scanners op sommige luchthavens. Veel van deze technologieën hebben een vermindering van privacy als effect. De veelgestelde vraag is dan ook; hoeveel privacy zijn we bereid om op te offeren voor veiligheid?

Hierop bestaat geen eenduidig antwoord. Zoals reeds vermeld heeft privacy voor iedereen een andere betekenis. Men kan via steekproeven nagaan hoeveel procent van de bevolking zich geschonden voelt in zijn privacy. Maar buiten het feit dat dit omslachtig is, moet men nog steeds een grens bepalen vanaf hoeveel procent hiermee rekening moet worden gehouden. Veiligheid is en blijft een hoog aangeschreven doel waarvoor veel mensen al hun privacy overboord willen gooien.

CCTV is huidig de meest gebruikte observatietechniek om de veiligheid te monitoren. Camera’s zijn zo gewoon geworden in het straatbeeld dat er geen aandacht meer wordt aan besteed. Maar wat kan je ertegen doen? Camera’s vermijden of onherkenbaar zijn is niet echt een optie. Bovendien hebben de meeste mensen zich neergelegd bij het feit dat ze gefilmd worden.

Een mogelijke oplossing is het aantal beperken, maar dit zal ook via een wetgeving moeten worden vastgelegd. Er zijn een aantal studies uitgevoerd om het effect van CCTV’s aan te tonen. Hieruit werd geconcludeerd dat indien CCTV goed geïmplementeerd is het een positieve bijdrage brengt aan de veiligheid. Misdaadbestrijding door CCTV wordt ook in vraag gesteld. In 2008 werd er in London maar 1 op 1000 misdaden opgelost door CCTV. CCTV’s worden in het algemeen aanvaard omdat deze publieke plaatsen monitoren en dus niet de “persoonlijke” privacy schenden. Deze zullen dus niet snel uit het straatbeeld verdwijnen.

Technologie is soms ook een oplossing om privacy te beschermen. I2P en Tor zijn anonieme netwerken die verhinderen dat de internet provider weet welke sites er bezocht worden. Een ander voorbeeld is een ludieke, maar effectieve oplossing voor de privacyschending door de X-ray full body scanners op luchthavens. Deze kunnen door kleren kijken en geven teveel van de persoonlijke privacy weer. Hiervoor ontwierp Jeff Bruske ondergoed met metalen toevoegingen zodat alles netjes bedekt blijft.

Tenslotte zijn er nog technologische gadgets die speciaal ontwikkeld worden om mensen te bespioneren en dus niets te maken hebben met veiligheid. Deze gadgets zijn meestal alledaagse voorwerpen en niet opvallend. De aanbieders van deze spionagegadgets bieden ook gadgets aan om zich te beschermen tegen deze eerste. Dergelijke handel moet streng gecontroleerd worden via de wet en bestraft worden aangezien het doel hiervan specifiek het schenden van de privacy is.

4. Bevolking

Op onze blog hebben we een poll gehouden waaruit bleek dat slechts 12,5 % zich geschonden voelt in zijn privacy en daar een probleem mee heeft, terwijl 37,5 % vindt dat zijn privacy geschonden wordt maar zich hiervan niets van aantrekt. De helft van de stemmers vindt dat hun privacy helemaal niet geschonden wordt. Ook het NRC Handelsblad vroeg aan zijn lezers of moderne observatietechnieken onze privacy schenden en of dit gerechtvaardigd kan worden door het feit dat deze technieken onze veiligheid moeten garanderen. Beide ondervragingen hadden gelijkaardige resultaten, waaruit volgende onderverdeling van de bevolking is uit afgeleid.

De grootste groep van de bevolking zijn mensen die hun privacy willen opgeven om hun veiligheid te garanderen. “Wie niets verkeerd doet heeft niets te vrezen.” en “Veiligheid heeft een prijs.” zijn hun motto’s. De mensen van deze groep hechten minder belang aan privacy of zijn oppervlakkig t.o.v. observatietechnieken. Meestal zijn ze niet helemaal op de hoogte van de negatieve effecten.

De tweede grootste groep bestaat uit mensen die vinden dat veiligheid niet helemaal ten koste van privacy mag zijn. Veiligheid is belangrijk, maar er moet naar oplossingen gezocht worden zodat onze privacy ook gegarandeerd wordt. Door het analyseren van de verschillende observatietechnieken komen de nadelen i.v.m. privacy aan het licht. Via degelijke wetten en technologische oplossingen moet onze privacy beter beschermd worden, bij voorkeur met de instandhouding van het oorspronkelijk doel.

De derde grootste groep bestaat uit mensen die hun twijfels hebben bij moderne observatietechnieken en er zich van bewust zijn dat de privacy geschonden wordt. Ze leggen zich echter neer bij de feiten en accepteren dat elke technologie voor- en nadelen heeft.

De kleinste groep bestaat uit mensen die vinden dat er helemaal geen privacy meer is. Deze mensen hechten veel belang aan privacy en vinden dat hiermee geen rekening wordt gehouden. De situatie in de toekomst zal alleen maar erger worden naarmate er nieuwere technologieën komen. Ze geloven ook niet dat een betere wetgeving of technologie een oplossing is.

5. Conclusie

Het staat vast dat de privacy altijd zal belaagd worden door nieuwe technologieën. Toch zullen er steeds nieuwe technologische oplossingen gevonden worden die de privacy beschermen, zonder het doel te verstoren. Mensen uit de 2de groep, hierboven besproken, zullen voornamelijk deze technologieën ontwikkelen.

Een betere wetgeving betreffende privacy kan nuttig zijn, indien deze gecontroleerd wordt en overtreders een gepaste straf krijgen. In tegenstelling tot de technologische oplossingen, zal het opstellen van nieuwe wetten vooral afhankelijk zijn van de nood van de bevolking. Een groot deel is zich echter niet helemaal bewust over de mogelijke gevaren van sommige observatietechnieken op hun privacy. Indien dit wel zou zijn, zou er meer vraag naar strengere privacywetten zijn. Zolang de eerste groep de grootste blijft zal er immers weinig verandering komen in de reeds bestaande wetten. Het is aan de mensen uit de 2de groep om de anderen hiervan te informeren en te overtuigen, om zo een groter bewustzijn te creëren. Enkel indien er een collectieve drang is naar meer privacy zal iedereen van meer persoonlijke privacy kunnen genieten. Alles hangt af van hoe de mensen staan t.o.v. nieuwe observatietechnieken en het belang dat ze hechten aan persoonlijke privacy. Ook het algemeen veiligheidsgevoel zal hier een rol in spelen, hoe groter de terreurdreiging, hoe meer mensen bereid zijn een deel van hun privacy op te offeren.

6. Actua

Een paar weken na het schrijven van deze tekst is privacy nog uitvoerig in de media geweest. Apple is beschuldigd over het bijhouden van de locaties van eigenaars van een iPhone, maar houdt voet bij stuk dat dit niet de bedoeling was.

“Apple houdt de locatie van uw iPhone niet bij. Apple heeft dat nooit gedaan en heeft geen plannen om dat te doen.” [5]

Diezelfde week was er op Canvas in het programma Panorama een reportage over privacy, genaamd “We zijn gezien” [6]. Deze reportage kan herbekeken worden op de website van Canvas [7]. Het zijn dergelijke reportages die voor nodige opschudding kunnen zorgen en in eerste instantie mensen waarschuwen voor de gevaren betreffende hun privacy. Mensen die behoorden tot de eerste groep (zie Bevolking) kunnen hierdoor overtuigd worden om in actie te treden.





[4] deredactie (15/05/2010)

[5] Knack (woensdag 27 april 2010)



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Final Statement Jun Wang

1.      Introduction

Since the start of mankind we are equipped with a good observation device, being our own eyes. Due to the different needs from industry, science and society, with the fast technological evolvement, we are no longer limiting our vision in a traditional 3-Dimension world: We are capable to observe the microscopic world using different kinds of optical microscopes and electron microscopes; we can locate our positions wherever we are thanks to GPS technique; we can do X-ray based techniques for CT scanning in medical section, etc. However, in contrast, we are also being observed everyday by different observation and measuring techniques like Closed-circuit television (CCTV), X-ray scanner in the airport security centre. Are we in the privacy crisis under all these techniques?

So what should we do about these techniques, shall we look into their negative sides when we are enjoying their advantages? Should we make concrete laws or regulations for these techniques? Or just neglect the potential risks?

Our blog address is: In the blog you can find all the posts and commends.

2.      Privacy issues

2.1  Privacy definition

Definition please refers to the first paragraph of post “The right to privacy in this surveillance world” or [1].

2.2  Types of privacy issues

  1. The first type of privacy issues is the conflict between personal privacy and public security, even when we take public security first priority, privacy issues are something we should never ignore, like Filip said, privacy is a basic need that can’t be violated. Then, the problem is how the government or security department should make regulations of these techniques in order to get rid of potential danger to public, while protect or at least keep people’s privacy.
  2. The second type of privacy issues result mainly from intelligence agency or some secret organizations. It’s somehow like the first type, though not the same, it’s something we could not control, though we know that we are all overseen to some extent through our mobile phones wherever we are. And we believe it does no good to the society.
  3. The last type of privacy issues are abused of these techniques. Like Google earth, you can use it to view geographic information, but you can also use it to peep someone’s garden, or even occasionally see a naked person in his or her swimming pool. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are even a bigger source for abuse. The solution for these issues might be better and stronger information regulation systems that will filter and protect information containing people’s privacy.

Actually, the second and third type of privacy issues should be considered together, it’s obviously that some governmental organizations are the largest abuser of these techniques.

2.3  Existing law for privacy

Law description please refers to the third paragraph of post “Personal privacy problems caused by abused of techniques” or [2].

It’s clear from this declaration that there is still a long way to go to details with personal privacy in the law.

2.4  Personal privacy problems caused by abused of techniques

Like “Social networks analysis” mentioned by Karel in his post “Personal privacy vs. Public security”, such as data from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, it’s a huge amount of source for surveillance abuse. Some of the abuses you may know because they are photos, videos or characters, but most of abuse results from governmental or commercial organizations. See what can be extracted from them: Personal interests, friendships & affiliations, wants, beliefs, thoughts, and activities. I believe most of the time, these information is not related to public security. This is just one type of so called “Surveillance abuse” For its definition please refers to the first paragraph of “Personal privacy problems caused by abuse of techniques” or [3].

Another example is: Governments often initially claim that cameras are meant to be used for traffic control, but many of them end up using them for general surveillance. For example, Washington, D.C. had 5000 “traffic” cameras installed under this premise, and then after they were all in place, networked them all together and then granted access to the Metropolitan Police Department, so that they could perform “day-to-day monitoring” [4].

2.5  Collective value of privacy

Its idea please refers to the 10th paragraph of post “The right of privacy in this surveillance world” or [1].

I quite agree with Regan’s opinion, especially her idea of privacy’s social value. Only through compromise to a more common level can we enjoy a broader privacy protection. If everyone just concerns his or her own privacy, the result will be less privacy for everybody.

3.      Solutions for the abuse of techniques

As it’s impossible to discuss all the solutions for different abuse of techniques in a single article. I will stick to two abuses of techniques: The abuse of surveillance and observation techniques, more specifically CCTV; the abuse of social networks.

But before all the discussions below I have to first state that in order to have a better privacy status in this surveillance world, not only improvement of laws, regulations and technology remedy are needed, but also people with a broader consensus should be evolved.  

3.1  Solutions for abuse of public, business and organizations used CCTV

Law point of view: The government should make more restrictions on the usage of CCTV:

  1. Which area is priory to set up CCTV systems and to which density it’s recommended. E.g., it’s more necessary to install such system where crimes are more often happened, and the CCTV network should be at least capable to cover this area roughly.
  2. Any organization that operates their own CCTV should make proper management of their data. There should be regular inspection on how the CCTV system is operated and whether there is data leakage. Also communications between other organizations should be limited to control the data in and out flow.
  3. Certain categories require immediate restriction as suggested by Privacy International: Please refer to the 6th paragraph of post “Solutions for the abuse of surveillance techniques: CCTV” or [5].

Technological point of view: In my opinion, with the technological evolving, more advanced CCTV with broader view and higher image quality while at lower price will appear, it might even worsen the abused problem, so at the mean time, more strict data protection should be further developed to limit data leakage. Published data should first be authorized.

Alternative technology: From surveilling the behavior of normal people perspective, using cameras are the most straightforward method. I believe in a long time, this basic method will not change, only the data processing and transfer might change to a more economical and efficient way. E.g., IP camera [6] may be more and more popular since it takes the advantage of the computer network and the Internet.

3.2  Solutions for abuse of social networks

For the abuse of social networks, the technological solutions are more reasonable. The first solution is privacy settings in all these social networks, you have to change proper settings to protect your own information against external users. There is a guidance of privacy setting for Facebook users: The second solution is proper data management, e.g, protection against hacker and limited data communication with external sources. Though there are different stories about the information sharing between Facebook and different governmental organizations, we hope Fackbook will always put privacy at their first priority and always stick to their original aim.

4.      Back to the origin of this statement

4.1  Public opinion

Jitse discussed in his post “Public opinion” that in a blog with the question What’s your opinion? Do modern observation techniques violate our privacy? Or is this really necessary to protect us against criminals?He summarized the participants into four groups. The largest group consists people that are willing to give up their privacy to protect themselves and their country against terrorists or other criminals. They have no problem what so ever with the violation of their privacy because it’s for a “good cause”. The second largest group feels like there has to be done something to protect our privacy. They don’t understand people who give away all their information or the fact that the fight against terrorism and crime justifies the means.

It doesn’t surprise me the first group out of the four is with the largest size. After all those previous posts and discussions in our blog, and the interview with Mr. Luc Geurts, I’m gradually convinced that it’s the starting point we (I) chose that made us (me) only focus more and more into the negative side of these techniques while we forgot that they were not born as bad kids and they will be always directed by the “feedback” of the society as I mentioned in the post “Interview with Mr. Luc Geurts”. I believe making this statement already put us in the smaller group of people as said in the post, or the second largest group summarized by Jitse.

However, I feel lucky that we put us in the second group not the first one, otherwise we wouldn’t have the initiatives to make all the effort for the posts and discussions gradually leading to solutions seeking, to reveal the existing or potential negative side or insufficiency of these techniques.

Finally I will say it’s the first group (majority) determines whether the technique is good or bad while it’s the second group urges the techniques evolves towards a more positive direction.

4.2  Interview with Mr. Luc Geurts from Group-T

Please refer to post “Interview with Mr. Luc Geurts”.

5.      Conclusions

After all the discussions above, I would like to conclude my final statement as follows:

Advanced observation and measurement techniques will not tend to be a problem for privacy.

The reason is: First, it is the “feedback” of the society determines the direction in which techniques will evolve, it’s also why only good techniques last a long time; second, the existing group of people who are aware of the negative side of the techniques (in our topic: privacy problems) will force the government or organizations to make reinforced regulations and corresponding laws.

However, the fact is there is still a long way to go to make concrete laws or regulations regarding privacy. All our posts and comments in the blog can serve as some references.

For companies who are doing business with online personal data, the following guidelines can be considered:

1. First it’s their own responsibilities of these companies to make proper data management and protect their customers’ privacy as simply as to conserve their reputation.

2. The government and other commission indeed should enhance the supervision of these companies.

3. Together with strong punishment implementation can also give a prior warning of these companies.

6.      References







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Final Statement Blog Filip Stroobants

For centuries, men has tried to investigate, understand, control, monitor, spy or fathom his fellowman . Without some form of control would we feel helpless and defenseless in the world of today apparently it is in our blood to feel like we are almighty. Nevertheless throughout the ages technology has made its entrance in the big brother effect (because lets be serious, it was present a long time before the TV show, the show just made people become aware of the phenomenon). For example “The iPhone uses both, GPS and Skyhook – you can’t hide – the only way to hide from this is to take out the battery – oh, wait a second … you can’t take the battery out of an iPhone!” or Privacy isn’t safe at Facebook where every move of the users is monitored, even outside Facebook sites and pages. Just google and you will find a lot of other examples.

Some people don’t know or don’t realize that they are being watched every single day, by surveillance cameras, satellites, security guards etc. But the problem gets even bigger, we are not being watched by what is obvious, other techniques such as laser scanners, CT scanners, CCTV, Skyhook and many more exist and these methods go beyond people’s imagination. For example Andy Greenberg has written his on blog about the abuse of full-body scan technologies used in police vans (ZVB’s). First of all I truly believe that the people who live in (mostly American) cities don’t know that this technique exists, but secondly I also believe that even if they did know it existed, they would say that it is not applied on them! “Only terrorist and criminals get in touch with these modern types of pursuit”, unfortunately they are misguided and ignorant, because not only bomb-squad and border control uses the technique, police corps have normal police vans who are transformed into ZVB’s.

A few months ago, I started a poll stating: “Do you feel like you are being watched en whether your privacy is being invaded?”. As you can see if you take a look on our blog, most voters don’t feel like they are being watched. Another great part of the voters feel like they are being watched but they don’t feel like their privacy is being violated. I believe this poll proves a bit that people are either ignorant or maybe used to the common technologies. Perhaps it is not possible to change our way of observation, so maybe we should focus especially on the privacy laws and the awareness of people in order to intervene in this phenomenon. As discussed in the movie “Privacy matters”, fore as one keeps to the rules, there is no problem, otherwise he will be send to justice. I believe that maybe we should apply these rules to the creators of the technologies when they start using or distributing it before setting up some basic ground rules which are acknowledged by the community. There is a lack of information towards citizens when it comes to standard security and surveillance, therefore it is important in the near future that we try to get the maximum out of our technologies. Above all, we are human and the separation between what is private and what is public is a foundation of our democracy. We should stop organizations and companies taking away our rights. We have the right to know what is happening, why it is happening and who has access to all this gathered data. Nevertheless there are a number of problems that occur even at the basic level of these laws, for example I searched on the internet for the basic laws of privacy in the USA. The funny thing about this is that they even violate their own basic laws when using scanner techniques in law enforcement etc. And even when such a protocol is written and being applied, abuse is never far away.

It just scares me knowing that maybe every move we take and every word we say is monitored somewhere. Just try to call someone when you are in the US for example and use the words Al Qaida, terrorist, bomb and White House in the same sentence and I believe you can be certain that you will be monitored for the next couple of weeks.

Mr. Jeroen Buys suggested that maybe in some way we could bring a bit of structure in all this (some kind of general framework for instance to ensure privacy in the best possible way). But frankly I think that at this stage, we are first of all not ready and secondly, governments and organizations are to different to get towards an(y) agreement. Where can we draw the lines, where does privacy start and stop, where do commercial goals mingle with security and surveillance goals, when should people be notified in case of privacy invasion and so on. We can go on for hours with examples and we can try to search for solutions and someday we will get to this point, but I do believe that now is not the time sadly but true.

Another example I would like to use in my statement is a quote from my own blog: “I would like to state an idea which comes from my engineering point of view. Shopping around the corner is actually quite interesting. Maybe we can improve commercial efficiency by adjusting our billboards in function of the passing customer. Maybe our economy would increase and sales will go up. Maybe people will stop buying stuff they don’t need and start buying things they actually like and want! I do believe that in the future we will switch to these kinds of marketing and I strongly support this. The problem is however: how will billboards (commercial companies) achieve this information…” Again this brings forward the issue of the gathering, there is no legal way to do all of this without invading someone’s privacy! Every technology and every step towards improvement of our society has its benefits and disadvantages, the question however is, what are we willing to give up in order to get these improvements.

Perhaps it is not a bad thing that all of this is happening, maybe we are more safe than before but never forget: the ‘enemy’ can purchase exactly the same means that we use to observe them! And yes, perhaps our society is better organized and safer with the surveillance technologies and yes maybe our economy can grow faster when our shopping behavior is observed and analyzed. I don’t want to degrade the technologies, moreover I support them. It is just the way of usage that bothers me. I also believe that we cannot stop this process from happening, it is in our nature to explore our possibilities but also to exploit our possibilities! Finally I want to state that it is impossible to make a statement about this issue, one can have an opinion but no one can define what the solution might be. And if you really want to get an idea of what we were trying to say on our blog, please read the article from David Friedman called “Privacy and technology”, you will see that is very difficult to define privacy and secondly he uses a lot of examples that maybe you did not think about in terms of privacy related. Maybe he will open your eyes to this problem and what it is all about because I believe he and I share the same interests: “The conclusion was that increasing the ability of individuals to control information about themselves had both desirable and undesirable effects, making it unclear whether, on net, we were better off with more or less privacy.”

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.

– Edward P. Morgan –

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Interview with Mr. Luc Geurts

I will end my last post as an interview with Mr. Luc Geurts from Group T-International University College Leuven, if you are a student from Group-T, I’m sure you know him.

I did prepare some interview questions before the interview, but finally it turend out that it was more like an conversation during which I learned Mr. Geurts’s opinion towards our statement and his attitude towards these observation techniques.

I will list Mr. Geurts’s points in a few graphs, I won’t call these statements since everyone may have different opinions, but it’s nice to hear about it, isn’t?

1. He is at the neutral position of our blog statement. His reason is it is the “feedback” of the society determines the direction in which techniques will evovle, it’s also why only good techniques last a long time. But it’s also important that there exist a group of people who are against certain techniques either because it’s still too new to prove its functionality or they “exaggerate” its real or potential negative side, because they don’t feel comfort to it, are afraid of it or just don’t like it. However, thanks to these people that the public can know more about the techniques and the company can work further to direct these techniques to a more postive direction.

2. After he saw the video clip of “Privacy matters” in the previous post, he could understand some concerns in it, but he didn’t feel fear about the issues. Also towards surveillance techniques like CCTV, he doesn’t mind to be watched daily in public places, as well his mobile phone being tracked because he thinks this tracking mainly aims to provide you beter customer service, e.g. greeting when you come to a new place. Then I told him that there are companies taking the advantage of similar techniques to rank products and carry surveys without informing people. His answer was very clear: it’s the responsibility of the operator to inform people clearly their intention when they use such technical devices, otherwise people will feel uncomfortable. Karel has already mentioned this in the post “Personal privacy vs. Public security” as follows: “If devices for observation are used, the people who are watched should be aware of this” In general, he believes that these techniques tend to work more on its positive side, he won’t worry about being watched or observed as long as he behaves properly.

3. For the “collective concern about privacy” mentioned in the post “The right to privacy in this surveillance world”, his first impression was privacy and social value are two things contradictory, he views privacy as something private, so do I. After I explaned a bit more about the purpose for this effort, he can understand their attempt, but we didn’t go on further with this discussion. Actually it’s its own property of privacy that makes it difficult to make concrete laws to protect people’s privacy, but are our privacy heavily violated nowadays without concrete laws, aren’t we living the same as yesterday and even tomorrow in this surveillance world?

4. After he heard about spyshops as mention in post “Spyshops and existing technology”, he agreed that it is illegal to sell these devices or provide certain tracking services, but for himself, he will just ignore the exsitance of these shops.

5. His final summary was he is at the neutral position of our blog statement as mention already, every technique can be abused, but abuse is not the main melody of a technique as it will be always directed by the “feedback” from the society. His last question towards me was what kind of problem for privacy are we discussing?

Finally, I will give great thanks to Mr. Luc Geurts for his time for this interview. I hope my colleges can also learn something from this interview before we start to write our final statement.

One more thing I have to say to Filip: I shouldn’t give that strong comment towards you. But if everyone was more actively involved, we could make a beter blog than it is now.

Good luck to everyone with his study and master thesis.

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Public opinion

In our blog everybody is convinced that observation techniques violate our privacy. After some research we are even more convinced than in the beginning of our blog. But what do other people think about this ? I found on the internet a blog from NRC Handelsblad. It’s a blog in Dutch which discusses more or like the same as in this blog. The title of the blog is :

“Do modern observation techniques violate our privacy ?”

First there is a short introduction which I translated here :

New observation techniques make it possible to scan people from a distance for compact objects beneath their clothes. In Article 11 in the Constitution states that one has de right on “inviolability of the body”. This article protects us against unwanted examination and taking DNA-material, but not against invisible techniques.

Dr. B.J. Koops teaches regulation of technology and pleas for a widening of Article 11. He states that people have to be notified  afterwards , that they were observed.

I agree that this is a good idea, or at least a good start. But I posted this article because under the article there is a question.

What’s your opinion? Do modern observation techniques violate our privacy ? Or is this really necessary to protect us against criminals ?

I think we can all agree that our privacy is violated, but I wanted to know what people (who maybe aren’t that informed as us)  thought about this question.  I read the comments and concluded that there is a lot of contradiction between the different comments.  Then I tried to divide them into groups.

The first group consists people that are willing to give up their privacy to protect themselves and their country against terrorists or other criminals. They have no problem what so ever with the violation of their privacy because it’s for a “good cause”. Their mottos are : “Who is doing nothing wrong has nothing to fear.”  and also “Safety comes at a price.”  This group is the biggest group. The article is already 3 years old, but I don’t think much has changed since then.

The second group feels like there has to be done something to protect our privacy. They don’t understand people who give away all their information or the fact that the fight against terrorism and crime justifies the means. This group is the second largest group.

The third group has doubts with the current observation techniques, but don’t really lie awake at night from this problem with their privacy. They accept that everything has advantages and disadvantages and are not willing to do something active about it.

The last group are the people who think privacy is dead or will be dead soon. They think it’s a lost cause to do something at all. The more new technologies, the less privacy is their motto. They also believe that corruption all over the world has a lot of influence and therefore laws are not useful. This group is the smallest group.

Now this is just based on approximately 40 comments, so it’s just a small poll. For who’s interested or doesn’t want to read all the comments,  I selected 15 parts from some comments in Dutch which I found interesting.

“Wie niets verkeerd doet, heeft niets te vrezen. Dit geldt alleen als je de wet kent en bij elke keer dat je gegevens achterlaat kan toetsen of gebruik je kan schaden. Gegevens blijven nu levenslang beschikbaar/bereikbaar door datamining en het maken van profielen pas je altijd in vele profielen. Zodra een wet wordt aangepast kan je in een profiel passen waardoor je zonder dat je er kennis van hebt kan worden aangemerkt als “dader”.”

“De wetten van nu en wellicht de bestuurders van nu, zorgen er misschien voor dat onze gegevens niet worden misbruikt. Helaas veranderen de spelregels tijdens het spel. Wat nu binnen de wet valt, kan er later buiten vallen. De gegevens zijn dan vast voorhanden”

“En dat eeuwige privacy geleuter: er is van iedereen al zoveel bekend: inkomen, belasting, auto, verzekeringen, koopgedrag etc etc dat er van privacy amper nog sprake is. “

Reactie hierop : “Die hoor ik vaker en dan denk ik: tja, dat komt omdat jij (Jan France?) en andere makke schaapjes hier nooit over hebben geklaagd. Jullie vinden het allemaal wel goed zo…”

“Mijn privacy wordt niet geschaad, wel die van criminelen, terroristen en ander onguur volk. En dat is prima. Veiligheid en de bescherming van de maatschappij hebben een prijs. Het gebruik van het woordje “onze” is in twee opzichten fout, want het suggereert enerzijds dat ik door mijn gedrag ook onderwerp zou kunnen worden van deze observatietechnieken en anderzijds dat ik mij verwant voel met bovengenoemd gespuis. Op de vraag: ‘Vindt u dat we rekening moeten houden met de privacy van criminelen etc?’ is mijn antwoord dan ook een pertinent nee.”

“Mijn privacy wordt niet geschaad, wel die van criminelen, terroristen en ander onguur volk. En dat is prima. Veiligheid en de bescherming van de maatschappij hebben een prijs. Het gebruik van het woordje “onze” is in twee opzichten fout, want het suggereert enerzijds dat ik door mijn gedrag ook onderwerp zou kunnen worden van deze observatietechnieken en anderzijds dat ik mij verwant voel met bovengenoemd gespuis. Op de vraag: ‘Vindt u dat we rekening moeten houden met de privacy van criminelen etc?’ is mijn antwoord dan ook een pertinent nee.”

“De schendig van onze privacy gaat véél te ver. Alles onder het mom van terrorisme. Dat is slechts een smoes.”

“Daarom troost ik me met het idee, dat mijn informatie in de veelheid stof ligt te verzamelen; ik kan me niet voorstellen dat er mensen echt belangstelling hebben voor mijn leventje. Wie dan en waarom? Dus de verzamelde informatie ligt wel ergens, maar niemand doet er wat mee. Dat denk ik.”

“twee typen bevolkingsgroepen,zij die controleren en zij die gecontroleerd contolerende groep is praktisch wettelijk onschendbaar, de te controleerbare groep bij voorbaat verdacht.”

“Onze overheid stelt zich steeds vaker boven de wet.”

“Moderne observatietechnieken vind ik niet te ver gaan, als er sprake is van misdaad”

“Camerabewaking vind ik wel een veilig idee op parkeerterreinen en in parkeergarages”

“De huidige privacywetgeving is vanwege de angst voor terrorisme in snel tempo aan het veranderen. Dat is natuurlijk wel te begrijpen. Maar alle voordeel heb ook z’n nadeel.”

“Het blijft mij verbazen hoe gewillig mensen hun privacy willen opgeven voor het idee dat zij beschermd worden tegen “de slechterikken”

“Welke privacy?”

Original article :

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