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Privacy in Our Own Hands

Having just attended the Privacy Law Scholars’ Conference a couple of weeks ago, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to protect our private personal information from those who might use it to harm us.  However, I’ve just read an interesting take on the “personal information” issue, Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell’s recent book, Total Recall:  How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything.

totalrecallWritten by computer scientists, this book is about using available and new technologies to document our lives and improve our memories.  It advocates individuals controlling their own information through various means of encryption etc.  While I’m skeptical that the average person will learn how to control her own personal information anytime soon and avoid the pitfalls of having others take control of significant amounts of often-damaging information, I was intrigued by looking at the equation from the other side.  It’s certainly an interesting take to think about proactively using the technology to maintain important private facts that we want to remember despite flaws and shortcomings in our “biological” memories.

4 thoughts on “Privacy in Our Own Hands”

  1. Great to see you at the conference, Jacqui!

    I have to confess to being skeptical of any “individualist” account of how people can “protect their privacy.” My fear is that individuals–even if they can construct and monitor something akin to the “personal data vault” advocated by Kang, et al. in their work on sensor networks–will have a false sense of security. Until we get a fuller sense of how users of our data construct reputational profiles on us, we won’t really know whether the technologies of “total recall” are working for or against us.

  2. Sure. I know exactly where you’re coming from, particularly as the book also advocates utilizing “cloud computing” to store personal data of various kinds. Once you’re not in control of your own storage devices, I wouldn’t think there is any way to ensure that no one else can access your information – even on your own hard drive, it can be accessed remotely. (Good to see you at PLSC too!)

  3. Hi Jacqui — If you haven’t read it yet, Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger’s book, Delete, has a significantly less optimistic view of the consequences of total recall.

  4. Jacqueline Lipton

    Yes, I have that book, Greg. And have recently started reading it. It’s a really interesting counterpoint. Thanks.

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