I sat through a late day session at Mesh ’08 yesterday titled Private vs. Public. Chaired by Rachel Sklar, it featured Nancy Baym, Mark Kingwell, and Ken Anderson. The promise?
Are society’s notions about privacy changing? Does anyone even care about privacy any more? Once you provide your information, does it belong to you or to Them? Younger Web users seem perfectly comfortable disclosing even intimate personal details to people they meet online. But some are concerned about what seems like excessive disclosure, and also wonder what happens to your data once social media sites get hold of it. Come and discuss these issues and more with Internet researcher Nancy Baym of the University of Kansas, philosophy professor and author Mark Kingwell and Ken Anderson, assistant privacy commissioner for Ontario, in a panel moderated by Rachel Sklar.
It was a fabulous premise, but a huge noop in terms of delivery. Rather than focus on the real issues, moderator Rachel Sklar guided the conversation through a series of the typical hype riddled hand wringing crap that ignorant media people who don’t understand privacy issues typically bring up.
A much more valuable conversation at Canada’s Web Conference would have been around what rights we as Canadians should expect. We have privacy rights in Canada, whereas Americans don’t. Convening a panel with an American philosophy professor, and an American internet researcher, chaired by an American journalist, all of whom were unprepared to discuss the privacy rights guaranteed Canadians, was a waste of time.
I would have liked to have seen an in-depth discussion of:
- your privacy rights and what you should do to protect them. What does the act, PIPEDA, guarantee you?
- the proliferation of video surveillance throughout Canada, and what is legislatively being done to protect citizens from undue and unwanted surveillance. Ken Anderson at least addressed this from the point of view of surveillance cameras in Toronto.
- the changing privacy landscape in the US. Many of the US web sites Canadians currently use are adapting their privacy policies to match Canadian style privacy policies. Facebook, for example, is one such site.
- if you’re starting a business, what should you focus on with respect to privacy? What is the users expectation? What are your legal obligations?
- as a business owner, what are the implications of storing your data or locating your servers offshore or in the US?
There were so many more interesting privacy questions that could have been explored in that session. Instead the central question seemed to be who has a right to your drunken college pictures on Facebook.