PrivacyCampTO the Need is Now

Living in a world of social media, we are sharing more information than ever – but how do we balance that with our personal privacy? That was just one of many questions that the first-ever PrivacyCampTO sought to confront. This unconference brought students, academics, policymakers, and everyone else in between together at Ryerson University on June 20th to look at privacy in the digital world.

The unconference started with a game where people stood on a line that represented the privacy continuum, from being very open on one end to being completely private on the other. This showed how different people felt about privacy and the entire spectrum was represented from the most private to those that are super open with most of people falling between the two extremes.

Gordan Savicic stopped by to talk about the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine he created (an automated process that would delete all the data in your Facebook account). With recent revisions to Facebook, privacy has become an increasing concern due to the complexity in managing all your information.

He talked about the efforts that Facebook took to block his site from running and how much attention the project received after it launched. Currently the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine is offline, but he hopes to release the code as open source at some point for people to use.

From online suicide to the share buttons, there is a shift in how privacy is perceived, as younger generations are more open about sharing while older generations may want to guard it more carefully. Someone said during a session that people often say something on social networks that they would never in person, and that can come back to haunt a person later on. That is probably one of the most tangible concerns people have about privacy online.

In the era of the social web privacy, legislation often lags behind emerging technology with the government playing a game of catch-up. At the same time, companies struggle against their responsibilities in regards to how to protect our privacy, while making use of the information they collect in some way. That can be selling our email address a third party, data mining, or many other options, as a way to monetize the information.

Constantine Karbaliotis, the Data Protection & Privacy Lead at Symantec Corporation, asked if notice was dead. Before you can use any website you have to accept their terms of service—and let’s face it, few people ever read them. He says that notice is a dated concept that is pre-internet and that we should move towards the concept of a social contract. This will be a challenge but Constantine thinks that it needs to change to meet the challenges of today which notice is not doing today.

As was first outlined in the game that started off the day, privacy is not an either-or, but a continuum, and while it is the government’s job to look out for the citizen, we have to be responsible for our own privacy and decide what we are going to and not going to share. Privacy is the responsibility of everyone from the end user, to the government and the companies whose products and services we use. Everyone who attended came out of the day with a much greater understanding of privacy issues and a starting point at how to tackle it going forward. It was a great event whose importance will only grow as time goes on.