I recently wrote about the Conference on Computers, Freedom and Privacy that just took place in Seattle.
I met a number of key thinkers there, people who have worked hard for a long time to understand what privacy really is and how to protect it as technology evolves and we settle cyberspace. I came away hoping they will work with us – and blog with us – to ensure our thinking about the identity metasystem contributes as much to the protection of privacy as it does to any other aspect of security. Privacy and security are not possible without each other.
Eric Norlin recently wrote that he'd “never actually found a privacy paper interesting enough to read past page 2.” I've heard that complaint before, so I want to turn him on to Steve Mann. Eric, Steve will not bore you. I think it was clever the way conference organizers used Steve's ideas to frame a number of discussions.
One such idea is called “sousveillance” – a response to what he calls “The surveillance super highway”. Steve has taken those little black domes that hide surveillance cameras intended to observe individuals, and used them to make personal surveillance systems that work in the opposite direction (through which the individual can record his treatment by organizations – see the photo at right for an example…) He ups the “anti” by calling them “maybecameras” – maybe they are real, maybe they are on, maybe they are recording, maybe they are broadcasting (he has developed sophisticated mechanisms for broadcasting video images in real time, and assembling them at a base station into wrap-around visual representations which can even be manipulated to edit out unpleasant sights like billboards). Of course, the maybecameras are really a “situationist” intervention, through which everyone starts thinking about many privacy issues.
So get this. The conference organizers actually turned every conference bag into a maybecamera replete with its individual dome… It was really bizarre and effective, causually mixing with hundreds of other dome-carriers at a conference with a title of “Panopticon”… And guess what? It's the first time I have come home from a conference with something both my (university age) children wanted!
The good news (in terms of future conversation) is that the folks from eyetap.org sent me this update:
Slides from the conference keynote, opening plenary panel (Steve Mann, David Brin, Latanya Sweeney, and others) are in wearcam.org/cfp2005/
Pictures are here, including pictures of the dome sewing party where many well known volunteers such as John Gilmore, Jon Pincus, Deborah Pierce, etc., helped to make 500 maybecameras, one for each conference attendee. Some of the maybecameras had wireless transmitters to send live video offsite, but attendees did not know whether or not they were watching.
For more background information on the maybecamera sousveillance project, see some of the papers published in Leonardo on this topic.