Ms. Smith at Network World made it to the home page of digg.com yesterday when she reported on my concerns about the collection and release of information related to people's movements and location.
I want to set the record straight about one thing: the headline. It's not that I object to the term “attempted privacy murder” – it pretty much sums things up. The issue is just that I speak as Kim Cameron – a person, not a corporation. I'm not in marketing or public releations – I'm a technologist who has come to understand that we must all work together to ensure people are able to trust their digital environment. The ideas I present here are the same ones I apply liberally in my day job, but this is a personal blog.
Ms. Smith is as precise as she is concise:
A Microsoft identity guru bit Apple and smacked Google over mobile privacy policies. Once upon a time, before working for Microsoft, this same man took MS to task for breaking the Laws of Identity.
Kim Cameron, Microsoft's Chief Identity Architect in the Identity and Security Division, said of Apple, “If privacy isn’t dead, Apple is now amongst those trying to bury it alive.”
Collection and Use of Non-Personal Information
We also collect non-personal information – data in a form that does not permit direct association with any specific individual. We may collect, use, transfer, and disclose non-personal information for any purpose. The following are some examples of non-personal information that we collect and how we may use it:
· We may collect information such as occupation, language, zip code, area code, unique device identifier, location, and the time zone where an Apple product is used so that we can better understand customer behavior and improve our products, services, and advertising.
The MS identity guru put the smack down not only on Apple, but also on Google, writing in his blog, “Maintaining that a personal device fingerprint has ‘no direct association with any specific individual’ is unbelievably specious in 2010 – and even more ludicrous than it used to be now that Google and others have collected the information to build giant centralized databases linking phone MAC addresses to house addresses. And – big surprise – my iPhone, at least, came bundled with Google’s location service.”
MAC in this case refers to Media Access Control addresses associated with specific devices and one of the types that Google collected. Google admits to collecting MAC addresses of WiFi routers, but denies snagging MAC addresses of laptops or phones. Google is under mass investigation for its WiFi blunder.
Apple's new policy is also under fire from two Congressmen who gave Apple until July 12th to respond. Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) sent a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking for answers about Apple gathering location information on its customers.
As far as Cameron goes, Microsoft's Chief Identity Architect seems to call out anyone who violates privacy. That includes Microsoft. According to Wikipedia's article on Microsoft Passport:
“A prominent critic was Kim Cameron, the author of the Laws of Identity, who questioned Microsoft Passport in its violations of those laws. He has since become Microsoft's Chief Identity Architect and helped address those violations in the design of the Windows Live ID identity meta-system. As a consequence, Windows Live ID is not positioned as the single sign-on service for all web commerce, but as one choice of many among identity systems.”
Cameron seems to believe location based identifiers and these changes of privacy policies may open the eyes of some people to the, “new world-wide databases linking device identifiers and home addresses.”