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The Age of Technological Transparency 173

Posted by Zonk
from the turn-off-chat-logging dept.
endychavez writes "Executives and politicians may be starting to realize that privacy is dead and secrets can no longer be kept in the information age. There is always a technological trail, and transparency is pervasive. Just ask Patricia Dunn and Mark Foley. In a piece at eWeek, Ed Cone from CIO Insight talks about the specific technologies that brought them down." From the article: "Foley may have thought his IMs were disappearing into the ether as soon as they cleared his computer screen. Instead, the messages were saved, and his career was ruined, and the House leadership is left to fight for survival. We talk a lot a about transparency as a virtue in the age of the web, and hold it up as a marketing technique and a better way to run an enterprise. Sun's blogging CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, is lobbying the SEC to allow more financial information to be disclosed online. Corporations are using all manner of web-techs to speak more directly to stakeholders. But transparency needs to be understood as more than a slogan or a strategy. It's a reality. It can be imposed on you by the Internet, whether you want to be transparent or not."
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The Age of Technological Transparency

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  • Privacy is a myth (Score:5, Informative)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:10PM (#16326923) Homepage Journal
    There is no guarantee of privacy anywhere in the Constitution- only a requirement that the evidence gathered can't be used against you in court.
    • Expectation of privacy was cobbled together by judicial decisions I believe. You are right, it is not enumerated in the Constitution.

      They took it from us. They tricked the gullible majority with that old canard: "Sure, it gives the gov't the power to really fuck you up...but don't worry...we'll only use this power against 'bad guys'".

    • Re:Privacy is a myth (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:18PM (#16327053)
      That is incorrect.

      The Bill of Rights is explicitly written to define government invasions of privacy illegal (mainly in the Fourth Amendment).

      It says nothing about being "used against you in court." This is merely the means courts employ to limit, in practice, the abuse of such illegally collected information. Nonetheless, it is the unreasonable search and seizure itself which is Constitutionally forbidden.
      • by Irish_Samurai (224931) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:29PM (#16327253)
        While I am all for privacy rights, I must ask the question. Are we entering an age where unreasonable Search and Seizure isn't required anymore to commit acts that the population perceives as an invasion of their privacy? Is it now possible for passive and non intrusive observation to yeild the same results? If so, do we need to define our privacy or attempt to limit passive observation?
    • by rolfwind (528248) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:19PM (#16327085)
      http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/c onlaw/rightofprivacy.html [umkc.edu]

      It starts off:

      "The U. S. Constitution contains no express right to privacy. The Bill of Rights, however, reflects the concern of James Madison and other framers for protecting specific aspects of privacy, such as the privacy of beliefs (1st Amendment), privacy of the home against demands that it be used to house soldiers (3rd Amendment), privacy of the person and possessions as against unreasonable searches (4th Amendment), and the 5th Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination, which provides protection for the privacy of personal information. In addition, the Ninth Amendment states that the "enumeration of certain rights" in the Bill of Rights "shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people." The meaning of......"
      • This is a good point.

        I think what it boils down to is this: the Constitution isn't an exclusive document. It wasn't intended to mean, "everything is illegal, except for a few certain things." They enumerated the really big important stuff that they thought the Government needed to avoid, but they weren't giving Congress a carte blanche to trample on the other rights that people had always assumed that they had.

        Unfortunately, the Ninth Amendment doesn't seem to get a whole lot of respect from the USSC or anybody else. It pretty much gets ignored; rather than drawing on the "pneumbra" and other IMO shaky legal arguments, I think it would have safe to just say 'hey, people have always had a certain right to privacy, therefore it's protected under the Ninth Amendment.' That makes it harder to chisel away at established freedoms, even if they weren't one of the top eight that made it into enumerated Amendments, or into the body of the Constitution itself.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thefirelane (586885)
      There is no guarantee of privacy anywhere in the Constitution- only a requirement that the evidence gathered can't be used against you in court.

      Only on /. would something this dumb be said. The constitution is not a computer program: "gee, you're right... you don't actually have a right to air"

      So you're telling me the MLK's rights were not violated when the FBI threatened him with the release of his personal activities if he didn't do what the government said? Please.
      • Privacy falls under the definition of 'life, liberty and pursuit of happiness'.

        It may not be removed without due process and probable cause - defined as a) conviction of a crime; or b) you're actually suspected of a crime.
      • Given the advance of technology to peer into every possible aspect of your life without a physical search, where does this mythical right exist?
      • There is no guarantee of privacy anywhere in the Constitution- only a requirement that the evidence gathered can't be used against you in court.

        Only on /. would something this dumb be said. The constitution is not a computer program: "gee, you're right... you don't actually have a right to air"

        I've heard the same thing basically in the real world. I've met some who believe this and say it.

        Falcon
    • by geekoid (135745)
      What?
      Is your understanding of the constitution really that shallow?
      • No, my understanding of language and technology is that great. It appears this so-called "right to privacy" was invented in the 1970s, and a little more than 30 years later, technology has advanced to the point where private spaces and private information have been de facto wiped out.
        • It appears this so-called "right to privacy" was invented in the 1970s

          The Right to Privacy wasn't "invented" in the 1970s. In the early 1800s the USSC ruled that privacy was part of the First Admendment's Freedom of Speech, specifically that democracy required anonymous speech. There have been other USSC ruling also saying there is a right to privacy in the 1800s and 1900s including one in 1969.

          Falcon
          • The Right to Privacy wasn't "invented" in the 1970s. In the early 1800s the USSC ruled that privacy was part of the First Admendment's Freedom of Speech, specifically that democracy required anonymous speech.

            I don't see covering up illegal actions as being anonymous speech. Nor do I see information put out in the public sphere of the world of commerce as being anonymous anything.

            There have been other USSC ruling also saying there is a right to privacy in the 1800s and 1900s including one in 1969.

            But
    • "There is no guarantee of privacy anywhere in the Constitution- only a requirement that the evidence gathered can't be used against you in court."

      Can someone please mod this down into oblivion where it belongs? Plenty of supporting posts for downmodding in reply to this thread.

      It just irks me that dis-(or just bad)information is being posted as the frist post.
      • Depends on your point of view- I honestly think it's closer to the truth, but the courts do disagree.

        The funny thing is from the technological standpoint- who ever promised you that information stored in a public network deserved any more privacy than shouting it in the park through a megaphone?
        • "Depends on your point of view- ..."

          Well in regards to the constitution, no it doesn't thankfully.

          It is quite well understood that the constituion guarantees us from an invasive government, as all of the preplys the the GP obviously show.

          "I honestly think it's closer to the truth, but the courts do disagree."

          Exactly, so you posted a remark you knew to be false and thus helped to spread disinformation... do you happen to work for Fox?
          • Exactly, so you posted a remark you knew to be false and thus helped to spread disinformation.

            No, I posted a remark I consider to be true but which is currently considered heretical by some in hopes of sparking a more productive debate on the topic.

            Thank you for proving my point that the concept is heretical, but I'd rather you joined in the debate on the subject of how information in the public sphere of commerce can be considered private.
            • "No, I posted a remark I consider to be true but which is currently considered heretical by some in hopes of sparking a more productive debate on the topic."

              Oh, so you're a troll.
              • Yes, but not all trolls have negative reasons for existing. I actually do believe that the original reasons for several constitutional concpets have been outstripped by technology- and I'm a supporter of a new Continental Congress to rewrite the damned thing and bring it more in line with reality as it exists today.
    • There is no guarantee of privacy anywhere in the Constitution- only a requirement that the evidence gathered can't be used against you in court.

      Actually as early as the early 1800s, 1817 I'm thinking, the USSC ruled that privacy was a right. Privacy was guaranted as part free speech, that anonymous speech was very important to democracy. Though by no means all many papers were written anonymously during the War for Independence. Even now nobody knows for sure who wrote all of the "Federalist Papers" t

    • by sootman (158191)
      It was once explained to me like this: at the time the constitution was written, privacy was a natural right, like gravity. Want to have a private conversation? Walk into the middle of a big open field and have it. The constitution also doesn't say "you have the right to walk on the ground." Privacy didn't need to be explicitly listed. And, as others have pointed out, several other amendments relate to privacy, esp. the 4th and 5th.
  • Filtering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRecklessWanderer (929556) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:12PM (#16326945) Journal
    Anything that catches stupid people is good. I used to tell people years ago, when I ran a computer store: "Don't put anything on the internet that you wouldn't be comfortable shouting across a crowded room." How hard is that to understand? If you can't figure that out, you have no business running a huge conglomerate like HP. Man, oh man.
    • by King_TJ (85913)
      That's an oversimplification... so maybe that's why people find it "hard to understand". If I'm on my *personal* computer and I instant message a friend, I have an understanding that the content is destined to travel directly from point A (my IP address) to point B (the receiver's IP address). Yes, it will travel through other people's routers and networks on the way, but it's generally assumed that such traffic isn't subject to review by humans, in-transit.

      Chatting over IM on the net is much more like ca
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vertinox (846076)
      "Don't put anything on the internet that you wouldn't be comfortable shouting across a crowded room."

      The problem with this is that companies are taking my information without consent and shouting it all day long over the PA system and bullhorns at a croweded Football stadium.

      Most of this information I never put up on the internet myself... It wouldn't bother me other than the fact someone can take it and run my credit score into the ground and/or possibly get me arrested for things I didn't do.
  • by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadin@NOsPam.xoxy.net> on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:12PM (#16326947) Homepage Journal
    There's a certain amount of irony in that the issue which gets the folks in Congress interested in technology, is watching one of their own get busted because he didn't understand that what he was sending over the "tubes" could be saved at either end.

    I guess if you can't convince them that "knowledge is power," maybe we should work on "knowledge is not getting indicted."
  • Oh Crap (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:12PM (#16326951)

    Does this mean all those chat room transcripts where I posed as an eighteen year-old 5'4" 110lb blonde cheerleader on AOL back in 1995 are still out there somewhere. . .?

  • Electronic trail (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:16PM (#16327013)
    It's been happening for quite awhile. Nearly ten years ago, I had the displeasure of dealing with someone within our organization that was exploiting security holes to gain more access than they should have had. Once we were on to them, we were deluged with evidence - weblogs, files on the PC, program history, and more.

    The moral of the story is stay squeaky clean, or assume that some day you'll have to pay the piper. Your wife could be looking at your browser history. Your e-mail could be hacked. Live life as if all your secrets were public knowlege.

    It's strange to think that technology really could lead to a more moral society. Usually politicians are preaching the opposite.
    • by giorgiofr (887762)
      Eh, "encrypt your data and secure your communication" is a better strategy than that.
    • by Knuckles (8964)
      your wife could be looking at your browser history

      If you cannot be honest with your wife, then change that or get a divorce.
      • by feepness (543479)
        If you cannot be honest with your wife, then change that or get a divorce.

        Spoken like someone with less than five years of marriage under their belt.

        I can be perfectly honest with my wife. I'm just not interested in discussing how those pants make her butt look, or more specifically, discussing the incorrectness of my opinion of how those pants make her butt look.

        Which is why the answer is always: "Just fine, sweetie. Just fine."
        • "Spoken like someone with less than five years of marriage under their belt. "

          Spoken like someone with less than 15 years under yours, unless you can be truthful to your wife, and your wife can appreciate your truthfulness (and vice versa), your marriage is doomed.

          DOOMED I SAY!!!!
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Knuckles (8964)
          I'm just not interested in discussing how those pants make her butt look

          So you have a website about you wife's butt? You were talking about your browser history ...
    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      It's strange to think that technology really could lead to a more moral society.

      Morality is not the same thing as honesty. I prefer the latter over the former, as "morality" depends on one's interpretation.
  • I'd like to point out that it is not just the pols and corporations that are learning these lessons... The media as well has and will continue to be 'bit' by this. While they once held a monolpoly on information, recent doctored photos scandals (Lebanon), CBS (forged?) documents, etc.. have all placed added scrutiny to the media's analysis, sources and methods.
  • Foley may have thought his IMs were disappearing into the ether as soon as they cleared his computer screen. Instead, the messages were saved, and his career was ruined, and the House leadership is left to fight for survival.

    Well, the bright side of all this is that it brings it home to these people that they need to understand how this technology works, because it's becoming a cornerstone of our society. Ted Stevens, for example, might actually take 5 minutes and find out how the intertubes actually wo
    • The reverse hopefully might also happen: we will all learn that a humungous amount of people have secrets that are not currently socially sanctioned (fetishes, desires, habits, phobias, fears) and we could become a less puritanical and more understanding society as a result.

      Many, many of the people wagging their fingers at Foley are probably also sighing in relief "At least they didn't find out about my...". Shame makes people suicidal, and act irrationally, and be vulnerable to blackmailers and abusive peo
  • honestly, those HP execs wouldn't have had all these troubles if they'd paid more attention to somethingawful and penny-arcade some years back.
  • If you do enough shady crap long enough, you get caught eventually. You can be clever about it, but usually people get careless and/orinvolve one or more other parties.

    If Folley had written letters to the boy on clay tablets or papyrus, using technology available at least since the age of the ancient Egyptians, he'd still have run the exact same risk. Because he would still have been acting like a creepy, hypocritical pedophile and still would have been committing statements proving that to a semi-permane
  • by Jerk City Troll (661616) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:33PM (#16327319) Homepage

    ... [S]ecrets can no longer be kept in the information age. There is always a technological trail, and transparency is pervasive.

    That is silly.

    Such a statement is analogous to declaring security dead because systems have been compromised in the past. Like security, the means to privacy must and are continuing to evolve. Adoption of these mechanisms may be a bit behind the curve, but that in no way means that privacy is “dead” for anyone or everyone. In the past, rotational cyphers, Enigma, and “security envelopes” were enough to keep your messages secure (for a while). These days, we have incredibly powerful tools for keeping our data private, we simply have to be willing to use them.

    And that is happening. Who does not use strong encryption for conducting electronic commerce? Nobody. As for privacy in email and other forms of communication, eventually, after enough scandals like those recently at Hewlett-Packard, people will adapt to protect themselves. Then the baseline will be raised and those who would wish to violate privacy will resume efforts in advancing the sophistication of their tools. Then those on the privacy side will move on again. This cycle will repeat again and again.

    Privacy is an arms race, in a manner of speaking, and just because privacy is behind at times in no way means that it is a lost cause.

  • by Darlantan (130471) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:40PM (#16327429)
    Secrecy is no more dead than it has been for a long while. There are some people who just don't seem to understand the medium. Sending messages across the internet is not like passing a letter to a person across the table from you. It's more like passing a letter along through a chain of 20 people -- any of which can read it as they handle it. You don't send secret things that way, or if you do, there's this little thing called encryption that you might want to look into. Also, much like a letter, once it is out of your hands you can't gaurantee that it won't come up at some later time when you least want it to. Also, are you _sure_ you can trust the person you're communicating with? Can you even verify that you're talking with who you think you're talking to?

    The same basic rules of secrecy that have always applied still apply today. First and foremost, if you want to keep something REALLY secret, keep it to yourself!

    Privacy, however, is a different matter.
  • by Travoltus (110240) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:42PM (#16327449) Journal
    The Republicans have spent so much time destroying our privacy and installing their surveillance state and now they have fallen victim to their own monster.

    I suspect they will be huge champions of privacy after this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by advocate_one (662832)
      Have you seen how Fox news is reporting on the Foley incident [dailykos.com]??? they're effectively claiming that he's a Democrat [boingboing.net]!!!
      • They're hoping to confuse just enough people to make a difference.

        Democrats should rip them a new one over this and make them apologize.
        • by Artifakt (700173)
          There's an axiom in the military: Once may be just happenstance, twice may be coincidence, but three times is enemy action!

          From the counts I'm seeing other places, Fox has made this same 'mistake' at least five times in two days, labeling not just Foley but Hastert as (D). The exact count is confused as some of these 'mistakes' were on repeating display bars and no one is evidently sure just how many times some of them cycled before they were corrected. Either Fox is crewed by people who couldn't get a job
    • by Software (179033)
      I suspect they will be huge champions of privacy after this.
      As much as I'd like to think so, I doubt this will be the case. I don't think the Republicans would like to be seen as doing anything that might appear to favor Foley. Plus they're just too committed to increasing surveillance of the general public. All in the name of terrorism, of course. Or protecting the children from the Foleys of the world. Or something.
    • by kbielefe (606566)

      Mark Foley is not the victim in this case. If the republican party is a victim of anything, it is the victim of Foley's misbehavior. Republicans have this crazy idea called taking responsibility for one's actions, which is why Foley resigned instead of whining about being a victim of a political witch hunt. It sounds absurd, but we actually like it when terrorists or paedophiles are held to account, even if they're republicans.

      All that being said, I had no idea that the IMs in question were internationa

    • The Republicans have spent so much time destroying our privacy and installing their surveillance state and now they have fallen victim to their own monster.

      I suspect they will be huge champions of privacy after this

      I curtainly hope so but I doubt it.

      Falcon
  • Foley may have thought his IMs were disappearing into the ether as soon as they cleared his computer screen
    Actually from my understanding, most Senators are under the impression that the internet is a series of tubes [boingboing.net] for sticking your penis into.
  • "Executives and politicians may be starting to realize that privacy is dead and secrets can no longer be kept in the information age. There is always a technological trail, and transparency is pervasive.

    Starting to? No, they realized that long ago -- what they are finally realizing is that they are no longer immune to the effects their legislation has created.

    The more bullshit that the administrations, Congresses, and Houses create, the more the community will buck against. We might be fighting the war di
  • When the world relies on computers, geeks collectively rule the world. Of course, most of them never use that power, since they'd much rather go home and kill off some demons or spend quality time with their children, but a well-placed geek could have just about every leader in every field (excepting geekdom of course) by the balls.
  • by vinnythenose (214595) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:53PM (#16327625)
    Having evidence on your hard drive these days is pretty much a guarantee of guilt. However, people seem to forget that should someone want to, it is relatively easy to plant information.

    You ever piss off a pscyhopathic computer geek and you're screwed.

    You'll turn on your computer one day to find illicit files all over the hard drive with timestamps ranging back through history. It'll look like you've been collecting whatever it is for months.

    Or hell, someone doesn't like you, they forge their log files on their computer and claim you were sending nasty IM stuff, when the authorities don't see the matching logs on your computer, they will just assume that you cleared them out to protect yourself.

    Yup, those timestamps are obviously immutable written in stone and never lie.
  • by filesiteguy (695431) <kai@perfectreign.com> on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:58PM (#16327731) Homepage

    You know, first it was some Chinese emporer trying to burn the bamboo parchment, then it was Nixon trying to erase tapes (remember those?) from his private discussions. Then it is Ley trying to shred documents and emails. Now it is congressman trying to hide behind the idea that the net is fleeting.

    My guess is that in fifty or so years, some senator will be brought down not knowing the two way VOIP product was archiving everything at some central server.

    Maybe he should have talked to Senator Gore, who invented the thing. He'd know where all the super sekret filez are kept.

  • Foley may have thought his IMs were disappearing into the ether as soon as they cleared his computer screen.

    That's a pretty stupid assumption. Why would he think they disappeared? Um, if they disappeared then what would be the point of sending them? He was sending messages to a recipient completely outside his control. They guy obviously got thrills by pushing things to the limit, and flirting with being discovered. It was only a matter of time before one of the recipients simply forwarded the messages
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by wdhowellsr (530924)
      Now it turns out the IMs might have been a prank by the page involved. He has lawyered up with Timonthy McVeigh's old lawyer (which can't be good considering McVeigh was executed) and was supposedly goaded into creating the fake IM's. That is the scarier problem since emails and IM's or almost any computer information can be faked, time-stamped and passed off as real by anyone reading this post. I don't think we have seen the last of the dirty tricks on either side of the aisle. It's funny, I always tho
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:01PM (#16327801)

    We talk a lot a about transparency as a virtue in the age of the web

    Speak for yourself.

    Personally, I'm not at all convinced. I value my own privacy. Perhaps more objectively, I recognise that no-one is perfect, and if you dig hard enough you can turn up dirt on anyone. I also recognise that most people in the world are basically good, decent people, and I would prefer to respect a reasonable level of privacy and live in a world where we saw the good in people. You can't do that in a world where everyone's whole life story is computerised, often against their will and without their knowledge, and the media delight in data mining on anyone of any conceivable interest (or at least, worth a few more sales).

    Now, governments on the other hand, they should have no right to privacy; on the contrary, IMHO they should be required to justify any attempt to withhold information from the public to an independent authority. Businesses should also be subject to much stricter openness requirements than individuals.

  • The headline made me think of a totally different and wholly more positive thing. I think we're approaching an age of technological transparency in another sense as well; being that technology is becoming more and more transparent to the user. You no longer need to understand unix to profficiently utilize a computer for day-to-day tasks. You don't need to know anything about the technology behind antilock brakes or active stability control to benefit from a safer automobile. Information transfer is ubi
  • How to be consistent? One man's treasured "transparency" is another's outrageous "death of privacy". Certainly no technical distinction exists between my IMs, your IMs, and Foley's IMs. Nor is there a technical distinction between the way Foley's secrets were exposed and the way anyone else's could be exposed.
  • That recent legislation requires your ISP to keep a record of your internet traffic?
  • by arodland (127775) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @06:16PM (#16328847)
    Use a tool such as Off-the-Record Messaging [cypherpunks.ca]. You get authentication to protect you against man-in-the-middle attacks, strong encryption, and a clever scheme that makes it so that if someone does manage to break a key and read a conversation, or if one of the parties to the conversation snitches, it still can't be proven that you've said anything in particular; the key material for authentication is published after the fact, so that while it's valid at the time you're having the conversation, afterwards anyone could forge a message that would pass authentication. So if someone comes out and says that you said X, and that they have logs and packet dumps to prove it, you can "prove" that you actually said Y, and that you have logs and packet dumps to prove it, and from a mathematical perspective both of your claims are equally credible -- either or both of you could be presenting a forgery. Fun!

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