Category Archives: Writings

Naming Files

Just modified my writing tips for students to add “A Few Words About File Names”:

Most of our students will spend at least some part of their careers working in large organizations where they share electronic documents. Students should get in the habit of giving their documents good file names. Thus “paper draft” is always bad — imagine if everyone calls their documents that!

Some organizations have naming conventions, but if not, be sure the file name has three things: your surname (if the primary author, so you get the credit), something substantive (not “paper” or “motion” but “Jones-dismiss-motion” or whatever), and a version number. You usually do not need a date, the software will do that automatically. For papers it’s probably a good idea to put your surname first, then a summary form of the paper title, as that way over the course of time all your submissions to your professor will be grouped together and easy to find.

It is good a habit to avoid spaces in file names (use – or _) so that files translate well to UNIX systems if they ever touch one. Do not use any other odd non-alphanumeric characters as it can mess up some older file systems.

All fairly obvious, but you would be amazed how many files I get from students called “paper”.

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Popular Science Likes Our Book

Robot Law is the front of their homepage today, and the subject of an article, Rock ‘em, sock ‘em, cross examine ‘em.

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Just Got My Advance Copy of ‘Robot Law’!

robotlawThis is exciting: just got my first copy of “Robot Law,” a book I edited with Ryan Calo and Ian Kerr. I suppose I might be a little biased, but I think it’s a pretty darn good collection that will give anyone interested in how society will cope with robots plenty to think about.

Robot Law is apparently going to list for $165 when it’s out in (very) late March, which is a lot, but you can pre-order it for less, or buy an online copy for much less. Meanwhile, however, you can peek inside, and read my introductory essay which gives you a tour of the wonderful contributions by our extraordinarily varied contributors. This is not a book just by some law profs: it’s an attempt to do real interdisciplinary work and, more importantly, to foster an ongoing series of interdisciplinary conversations.

Of course, the real-life place where we do that is at We Robotregistration for this year’s conference is now open and the early-bird discounted registration ends Friday.

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Kewl

The HTTP 451 Error Code for Censorship Is Now an Internet Standard.

I believe this action of the IETF is consistent with the claims I made in my article Habermas@discourse.net: Toward a Critical Theory of Cyberspace, 116 Harv. L. Rev. 749 (2003).

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From Anonymity to Identification

The inaugural issue of the Journal of Self-Regulation and Regulation is out, and it includes an article of mine, From Anonymity to Identification. The article is adapted from a talk I gave in Heidelberg last December. I’m in good company: other authors in this issue are Markus Beckedahl, Jeanette Hofmann, Marianne Kneuer, Milton L. Mueller, Ekkehart Reimer, William Binney, Kai Cornelius, Myriam Dunn Cavelt, Sebastian Harnisch and Wolf J. Schünemann.

The full text of this open-access journal is available online, including a .pdf of From Anonymity to Identification. As Larry Solum likes to say, download it while it’s hot.

Here’s the abstract for “From Anonymity to Identification”:

This article examines whether anonymity online has a future. In the early days of the Internet, strong cryptography, anonymous remailers, and a relative lack of surveillance created an environment conducive to anonymous communication. Today, the outlook for online anonymity is poor. Several forces combine against it: ideologies that hold that anonymity is dangerous, or that identifying evil-doers is more important than ensuring a safe mechanism for unpopular speech; the profitability of identification in commerce; government surveillance; the influence of intellectual property interests and in requiring hardware and other tools that enforce identification; and the law at both national and supranational levels. As a result of these forces, online anonymity is now much more difficult than previously, and looks to become less and less possible. Nevertheless, the ability to speak truly freely remains an important ‘safety valve’ technology for the oppressed, for dissidents, and for whistle-blowers. The article argues that as data collection online merges with data collection offline, the ability to speak anonymously online will only become more valuable. Technical changes will be required if online anonymity is to remain possible. Whether these changes are possible depends on whether the public comes to appreciate and value the option of anonymous speech while it is still possible to engineer mechanisms to permit it.

Posted in Law: Internet Law, Surveillance, Writings | Leave a comment

Into the SOUPS

soupsI’m off to Ottawa for the 2nd Annual Privacy Personas and Segmentation (PPS) Workshop which is being held in conjunction with the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS).

The organizers selected me to give the keynote for the workshop, and I’ve produced a provocation for them. Here is the introduction:

Users are notoriously bad at safeguarding their online privacy. They do not read privacy policies, which in any case are mostly contracts of adhesion. They make over-optimistic assumptions about protections and dangers.[15] They use weak passwords (and repeat them), accept cookies, and leave their cell phones on thus facilitating location tracking, which is vastly more destructive to privacy than almost any user grasps. [8] Contrary to Alan Westin’s privacy segmentation analysis [31], most privacy choices are not knowing and deliberate because they are not within the user’s control (e.g. surveillance in public). Other ‘choices’ happen because users believe, correctly, that they in fact have no choice if they want the services (e.g. Google, mobile telephony) that large numbers of consumers consider necessary for modern life. [27]

The systematic exposure of the so-called “privacy vulnerable” user [27] suits important public and private interests. Marketers, law enforcement, and (as a result) hardware and software designers tend towards making technology surveillance-friendly and tend towards making communications and transactions easily linkable.

If we each have only one identity capable of transacting–even if it is mediated through multiple logins–and if our access to communications resources, such as ISPs and email, requires payment or authentication, then all too quickly everything we do online is at risk of being linked to one master dossier. The growth of real-world surveillance, and the ease with which cell phone tracking and face recognition will allow linkage to virtual identities, only adds to the size of that dossier. The consequences are that one is, effectively, always being watched as one speaks or reads, buys or sells, or joins with friends, colleagues, co-religionists, fellow activists, or hobbyists. In the long term, a world of near-total surveillance and endless record-keeping is likely to be one with less liberty, less experimentation, and certainly far less joy [16] (except maybe for the watchers). In a country such as the US where robust data-protection law is deeply unlikely, a technological solution is required if privacy is to continue to be relevant in the era of big data; one such, perhaps the best such, technological improvement would be to create an IMA designed to give every person multiple privacy-protective transaction-empowered digital personae. Roger Clarke provides a good working definition of the “digital persona” as “a model of an individual’s public personality based on data and maintained by transactions, and intended for use as a proxy for the individual.” [4]

Whereas Clarke presciently saw (and critiqued) the ‘dataveillance’ project as being an effort to create a single, increasingly accurate, digital persona connected to the person, the objective here is to undermine that linkage by having multiple personae that would not be as easy to link to each other or to the person.

(Updated to correct link to workshop.)

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Link to My Paper

I neglected to link to Lessons Learned Too Well: Anonymity in a Time of Surveillance, the paper I’m presenting at #yalefesc. A very very small number of people will recognize this as a partial redraft of a paper I started a few years ago, but never published because it didn’t seem quite right. My plan is to get it as right as I can in the next few months, which is why I’m workshopping it.

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