Archive for September, 2007

Media expercience(s)

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

In the last months I have been in the Dutch media a number of times. Although this is not a new experience for me – I had been representing Bits of Freedom in the media when I worked for them-, the frequency and intensity was. The main reason for all of this were the Dutch Big Brother Awards, organized by Bits of Freedom. The other reason was the growing scrutiny of search engine giant Google in The Netherlands from the perspective of user privacy. I think and hope it’s over for a bit. I thought it would be nice to list a few of these experiences.

To start with the nicest I appeared in a documentary on the possibility of anonymity and the hunger of the US for personal data of European citizens. My contribution focuses on online services on the Internet. The show is still online (in Dutch). My interview comes after a minute or six. I was happy with this one. The only thing that could have been better was the connection of what I said with the other interviews. They start with Internet and search engines and then they go to passenger name records and terrorism. The series in which it appeared “Jansen & Janssen” is made by one of the best public broadcast agencies in Holland, VPRO. The same people were involved in the documentary “Behind the Screen” from BackLight about Google from 2006.

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The last days I was live on the radio a few times. The shortest one is national ‘breakfast radio’ (Radio 2, 7:45 am) on Friday 21 September 2007, announcing the Dutch Big Brother Awards Ceremony, to be held that night. The show is still online. I don’t recommend it in particular; the music they play is awful and it’s very hard to find my piece (in Dutch). My interview went fine although it was quite short. I explained why the Dutch central bank, DNB, got a nomination for an award. They knew about the SWIFT scandal and kept it quiet. I also explained the goals of the Big Brother Awards, public awareness and debate about privacy and privacy intrusions.

I did a long interview about the Big Brother Award winners, ‘You’, NS, DNB, and the Electronic Child Dossier, on Monday 24 September 2007 in Desmet Live (Radio 5), presented by Pieter Hilhorst. It’s online here. The conversation I appear in starts around minute 21:55. As you can see, they actually recorded the show with a camera. As you can see as well, I only noticed that after the show. After a while it looks like I have a palm tree in my hair… As far as the conversation is concerned, I liked it a lot. I get to talk about the winners of the Big Brother Awards. Besides that it deals with privacy and showing oneself online. According to Pieter Hilhorst, web 2.0 technologies trains us to invest our private lives in these online communities. We get trained to share and thereby loose our traditional sense of privacy. The subject relates connects to Danah Boyd’s argument about identity production and the inaugural lecture of Jonathan Zittrain at Oxford University. The other guests are a theater maker/actor Hans Croiset, director of microblog service Numpa Arjen van ‘t Hof, and a blogger and intensive user of Hyves (Dutch Myspace) whose name I forgot.

Finally, yesterday, I was on the news channel Radio 1, in a program called Radio Online, by public broadcaster TROS. Also this one is online. My interview starts at 16:15 (in Dutch). Before my interview they are talking with two experts on search engine optimization, Henk van Ess, journalist and director Marco Juffermans of UniversalXS. UniversalXS says it cleans the search results of its clients. It has a service for 150 Euro’s a month, for which they put nice information on the web and optimize it for Google so the other information gets pushed away. So in fact they do not clean the results, they pollute them (even more?). After that I get to react and speak about the winners of the Big Brother Awards. A few times these particular journalists were going for the ground under my feet. What I took from it: it’s nice if you know (maybe better then the interviewers) what you are talking about.

Google is the new world bank?

Monday, September 17th, 2007

For anyone who did not see it yet, The economist has a nice editorial about Google. It compares Google to a bank (of our private data). Maurizio Cattelan SafeI did not see this analogy yet and think it’s an interesting one. “What’s the interest rate?” would be a good question to start asking….

Google is now advocating an international privacy regulation effort. Peter Fleischer has an extensive post on it. Google has been very active on the privacy front the last half year. That can probably never change. It is a condition for being trusted by its users. It is also not surprising that arguably the biggest threat to privacy today is advocating privacy regulation. Regulation and laws in general can provide Google the trusted environment in which the world continues to invest its personal data. It’s an industry move that I find comparable to the requests by for legal certainty after a new technology has been introduced, convincingly described by Deborah Spar in her book Ruling the Waves. Ebay’s tight connections to law enforcement are an example. In this specific example involving Google it’s however not about upholding property rights, it’s about another type of valuable goods, our personal data.

Nominations Dutch Big Brother Awards

Monday, September 17th, 2007

The Belastingdienst, NS, minister Rouvoet, Google, De Nederlandsche Bank, Schiphol, Maurice de Hond, Mark Rutte, the proposals for implemantation of the data retention directive, the plans for an Electronic Child Dossier, the proposals for new powers for the AIVD and the PNR Data Agreement have been nominated by the jury for a Big Brother Award 2007.
Design by Bosz de Kler

With the Big Brother Award every year people, companies, government institutions and proposals are put in the spotlight for promoting privacy violations.

In each category the jury will announce a winner during a public event on 21 September 2007, 20:00, in De Balie, Amsterdam, with guests Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority, Justine Pardoen (chief editor of Ouders Online (Parents Online) and Sophie in ’t Veld (Europarlement, D66) . It is the fifth time a Big Brother Awards ceremony is being held in The Netherlands.

The jury consists of lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm, legal researcher and advisor Bart Schermer, professor computer security Bart Jacobs, professor regulation and technology Bert-Jaap Koops, professor law and information science Corien Prins en author Karin Spaink (chair). The Big Brother Awards are being organised by Bits of Freedom, a Dutch NGO devoted to the defence of digital civil rights.

Quaero forum

Monday, September 17th, 2007

The weekend of 29-30 September 2007, the Jan van Eyck acadamy holds a forum on the politics of search engines.

“Quaero: isn’t that the search engine that former French president Jacques Chirac declared to be the European challenge to Google? A public alternative to Silicon Valley-born commercial search engines, funded by the French state, in service of the public good, in the true tradition of the grand projet? An information machine capable of reclaiming European language and intellectual heritage in the age of globalization?

No. Quaero is the name of a consortium of technology firms and research labs working together on multimedia and web search projects. It is a state-sponsored effort to stimulate private French technological competitiveness.”

I hope to understand more about Quaero after this. And I hope to be convinced the money is being spent well.

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