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Privacy is NOT dead

29 Mar

“‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'” – George Orwell 1984

You have been told over and over that Privacy is dead, buried, gone for ever.

The Personal Data Coalition does not believe that.

We are fighting to help people understand that privacy is not a business.  It is a Constitutional Right granted in the Fourth Amendment.  Privacy can’t be something you can buy, although today, that is the prevailing idea.  Privacy is not for the smart or the Luddites.  Privacy knows no color, race, sex or religious preferences.  Privacy is really about the rule of law and society.  It is about the Truth.  Privacy is about our security.

We must feel secure in our lives or we become a society of Anarchy driven by might, guns and fear.  We cannot feel secure if others have our information and we don’t know what they are doing with it.

If our Government cannot protect it’s citizens then it fails to be relevant.  We have seen more every day where our protection is at risk and cyber-security is the next major area of risk.

“In God we Trust, all others pay cash”

With the invention of the transistor and the BIT (the basic unit of information) the digital world was born.  It is a genie we will not get back into the bottle as long as the electricity stays on.  We can’t ignore the consequences of the digital world and how it is changing society.  We can take steps to make it rational and reasonable and keep it from destroying our lives.

Steps you can take.

1. Demand that your Government protect its citizens and their property, digital or otherwise.

2. Ask your Government to develop a technology to keep your information private and secure and separate from other peoples information.

3. Spread the word that Privacy is not dead.

4. Remember that Corporations should never keep your personal information but they should be able to access your information when you agree to let them.

5. Remember that Corporations should pay you for information that they want. Nothing in this world is free.

6. Remember that protecting your personal information is the responsibility of the Government and not something we can do on our own.  No company can protect your information.  In God we Trust…..all others pay cash.

7. Know that Relational Database Technology cannot protect your information.  It is the root cause of the problem.

8. Everything is tracked, traceable and monitored.  That information is personal and should be kept private also.

If I were an Information Architect

21 Feb

Information Architect

If I were an Information Architect and I had the job of organizing all of this worlds information….how would I design the system to hold the World of information around us.  Would I do it any better than what we have today?

Like any Architect, I would like to know the users and the uses of the thing I was going to design.  All of the requirements that are needed to store and Information Architectdisplay the information should be defined before we begin any construction.  And like any Architect, someone is paying for this design and ultimately the construction of this system so it must meet their budget and cost guidelines.  Who is the customer for this project?  That is a great question.  It could be many people (literally) or it could be a Sovereign Government or maybe a Corporation.  In fact, it is all of the above.  Everyone and everything needs and uses information.  It is the absolute building block of everything around us.

Physical objects embed their information into their structure.  It becomes one with the object.  We can describe physical objects with information and very detailed photos, drawings, specifications and keep that separate from the object as well.  The information is not connected to the object so as the object changes updates to the information must be made where the embedded information in the object is always up-to-date.  We will call that information a point-in-time design specification type of information.

We receive information continuously all the time.  That information is transient in nature and is often never recorded or remembered as accurately.  Our brains remember many transient events and places and people but those memories are limited by the perspective and filters of the person recalling those memories.  This transient information we receive is like the air we breathe.

Lewis Carrol, author of “Alice in Wonderland”,  fancifully envisioned a full-scale map of the world but soon realized that it would be too big to be of any use.  Any attempt to manage all of the Worlds information would be like trying to make a full-scale map and would be too big to be of any use.

We can see that a lot of information exists, but most of the information that an Architect needs to include in a design is much smaller in nature, easily created and involves unique items whether it is a person or some other item.  This is information that would not exist if the person of object did not exist.  For a person we shall call this personal information.  For an object we shall call it object information.  It is data, made up of the discrete unit of measure called a bit.  A bit is the smallest discrete unit of information in a digital system.  Bits get organized by standard methods into sets and those bits become information.

Everyone of us creates information and needs information.  Mostly we need transient information from the sea of information around us and use as much as we create.  As we organize into families, communities and larger groups the need for different and more specialized information grows.  In today’s society without all of the structure that information provides everything would collapse.  This specialized information that we use everyday is critical to our lives and is difficult to manage.  It is located in hundreds of different places and different systems some that we have access to and many that we do not.  We have no idea who is accessing it and how securely it is managed.  Each day more information is created and deposited in more and more places.  It seems like this may be a good place to look at a re-design.

What if….all of our personal information was in just one and only one place?  Wouldn’t that make it more convenient to manage and secure?  If I were an Information Architect that is what I would start with.  A single place for each person’s information.  It would be accessible with the proper security and authentication over a “high-speed network” like the Internet.  It would always be available and there would be multiple copies of the database to ensure that it would always be available.  It would also be read-only.  You could make a copy (clearly marked as a copy) but you couldn’t change the data that was already stored.

This would be a large-scale endeavor.  Taking all of our information and putting it in one place.  Why would or why should we do this?  Security and privacy for one reason.  Convenience for another reason.  Accuracy and access for a few more.  We need to find a better way to secure and manage our personal information and paying for a service that notifies you after something bad has happened is not a good solution.  We could start small.  The rewards would be enormous.  Savings in the TRILLIONS of DOLLARS a YEAR…not to mention the better quality of information, speed and access as well as better security and privacy.


Rules of Engagement

08 Nov

Rules of engagement

The battle for individual control of privacy (and our personal data) is heating up.  Microsoft with its Do Not Track feature in Windows 8, preset to “No”, has just thrown sand into the marketing gears of the Information Age moguls and entrepreneurs.  After years of seduction by Silicon Valley on the wonders of the Internet, the reality of loosing our freedom and anonymity is finally raising a level of concern, and not just in cyberspace. There is increasing anxiety about traffic cameras, GPS tracking, and robo-call election campaigning to name a few of the other slippery slopes.

The signs of increased push-back and the desire to have more self-initiated control are there as well.  It started with unsubscribe requirements newsletters and marketing messages and the Do Not Call list legislation.  Now, with caller ID standard on most cellular and landline phones as well as cable television, we have an up-front choice to “opt-in” or “out” of any intrusion.  We want to be in control of who invades our “space.”  We want to protect our privacy as well as preserve our freedom of choice.

The war, however, is far from won.  As with almost everything else in life, this one, too, is about the money.  Follow the money.  It is the lifeblood of Google, Facebook, and Twitter.  It is also about control.  Control the delivery channel down to the individual and you control everything, content included.  The writers, artist, photographers, and, yes, the content providers like you and me, are left at their mercy.  Take away our personal data and the marketing revenue stream becomes little more than a trickle.



But it is more serious than just loss of revenue.  It is also about loss of freedom and our loss of anonymity.  Like frogs in cold water, we have been steadily loosing our personal freedom as the Internet marketing community slowly turns up the information gathering and usage heat.

Back to the Basics

Freedom is what being a human is all about.  Protecting that freedom is why the Founding Fathers wrote the United States Constitution.  “Give me liberty…or give me death” was their slogan.  The Constitution defines the boundaries and the rules of engagement for protecting that freedom.  The American Revolution had many causes…like Taxation without representation, loss of liberty and self-rule, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, speech, and yes, anonymity.  Without anonymity and some great thinkers to take advantage of it, the our American Revolution might not have happened.  Thomas Paine, Ben Franklin, and others were some of the revolutionary thinkers and writers but the publishers under the cover of anonymity made possible the communication of those ideas. The many wars and global conflicts since then give testimony to the necessity of being prepared to protect and even die for our Constitution and the freedoms it protects.

It was simpler then, but now, the Information Age, and more specifically the conversion from analog to digital of everything, has changed this.

The Internet revolution has its own many causes…like, Freedom of information, Free Software, Free Music, and data access to everything at our fingertips, …  Free music, free video, free everything.  But do not mistake Free for Freedom.  And although there have been many declarations of Internet freedom and independence (John Perry Barlow, Jaron Lanier, 99%, Tea Party, Al Gore) , we have yet to define the new rules — the boundaries of our cyberspace behavior.

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

by John Perry Barlow <[email protected]>

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don’t exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

Davos, Switzerland

February 8, 1996

How should we do this?  The American Revolution provided a framework for “self rule” in a new form of government where the people were superior to the “government” but subservient to the rule-of-law.  The sovereign state was to protect the individuals and their persons and papers, regulate trade and commerce, negotiate treaties and establish a representative form of government that could respond to future changes.  But did it anticipate the internet revolution, the digital age and the rise of corporate oligarchy?  Probably not, but they did know that we cannot move forward without a constitution, that we cannot ignore change, that we must live in spite of it and not through loopholes.  People matter, rules matter, natural law matters (life, liberty and the pursuits of science, art, happiness).  The rule-of-law makes it happen.

It’s back to the basics.  John Perry Barlow and Jaron Lanier said that the laws we live by greatly lag the technology of the day or constrain us in ways we cannot see.  Nothing could be truer in the 21st century than the vast space between constitutional freedoms and the “rights” of the Internet.  Copyright, patents, and other tools for protection of invention and human creativity were designed for the “physical nature” of the Industrial Age.  We can touch and feel books and machinery but they are hard to copy.  In our digital world, we can copy them without much effort at all.  Today, protecting their ownership and value, is far more elusive.  We need rules that are no longer as much about safeguarding what things do but protecting the ownership of the intellectual property provided by their creators.  Yet, we have precedent.  Privacy and anonymity were part of our founding fathers thinking.  We just need to reapply them to today’s thinking.

The great thinkers of our time believe that privacy and anonymity are also principles behind the founding of the Internet. Recently, Bob Metcalfe (founder of the Internet and Ethernet) said that “anonymity was a major design requirement in the TCP/IP protocol” source addresses were not to be “reviewed or analyzed”.  The network was to be blind to the traffic it carried.  It was not the network’s responsibility to determine the “value” of the packets…”we are living in an era of obscenely abundant bandwidth”…Metcalfe quipped…”look what we are doing with the excess”…”YouTube”

Where do we stand today?  Unregulated trade in an individual’s information is a form of slavery even if it includes 99% of the population.  Hyperbole yes, but nevertheless we have slid far down the slippery slope of placing corporate greed ahead of individual rights.  We need to put the individual, yes, each one of us, back at the top of the list, numero uno.  If we don’t, we can’t help but dissolve into oligarchy and corporate rule.  We must stand together for our rights as people by acknowledging that our property can and does also exist in digital form and must be protected.

What do we do?

The Personal Data Coalition believes that the following four barriers must be overcome if we are to resolve the cyber property rights issue:  Legal, Financial, Technical, and Sociopolitical.

Legal:  The 4th Amendment is popularly viewed as the search and seizure or the man-and-his-castle amendment.  Over time, however, interpretations have been made to include the right of privacy in automobiles and with the advent of the digital age, the computer.  Although implied, the right of ownership needs to be more clearly defined.  Our data is our data regardless if it is shared with a third party (ie Third Party Doctrine).  The nature of digital information is it’s ability to transcend physical location.  Fundamentally, we need to ask, “Is our personal data our personal property” and “what are our rights”?  Answering the question is fundamental to our freedom, now and in the world to come, and should be part of our Constitution and “Rules of Engagement”.

Financial:  The Internet is still in its “Wild Wild West” phase.  Liberties are being taken in the name of convenience and marketing efficiency that are, in reality, leveraging the intellectual and personal property of individuals without proper compensation.  It is a form of a Ponzi scheme that if not stopped the consequence is loss of freedom.  As discussed earlier in this piece, people are starting to show their concern.  The newly formed Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium, perhaps sensing long overdue concern for this issue, is proposing the creation of information management standards.  Although their activities may be just “letting the fox in the hen house”, they may be a step in the right direction.  As usual the jury is still out and the devil is in the details.

Technical:  The Personal Data Coalition and its technical partner PEA Computing have long believed that the over 30 year’s dominance of the Relational Database has been a key barrier to efficient individual information property management.  As a consequence, our personal data is scattered over thousand’s of unsupervised databases.  Most of it is out of date, inaccurate, misleading, and unsecured.  The net result is that there is no single version of the truth, anywhere.  And, as we are now learning, the adverse consequences are steadily on the rise.

Sociopolitical:  The fear of big brother and Orwell’s 1984 may be the greatest barrier.  On the surface providing constitutional protection for personal data would seem to give the government ultimate control of our freedom.  Yet, information about us is already in their hands as well as thousands of businesses and individuals. This is not only inefficient and probably dangerous, but will likely lead the very situation that we all fear.  The Constitution has provided the order and guidance through the rule-of-law we have needed over the past 200+ years.  It can do the same for us for the next 200 years.  Thus, it must not be ignored.

We the People demand….

14 Oct

Bill of Rights


We have a constitution that is over 200 years old.  It remains one of the most remarkable documents in the history of Man.  We Americans will always be the first union of people to have a Government that is subservient … that serves the people.  Today, we need to consider what changes to that document should be made.

The digital age has crept up on most of us and we need to consider the implications of a digital world.  We live in an era of exponential changes.  For the most part our digital lives feel like a convenient extension of what we have always known but, do not be deceived.  Our phones still allow us to make phone calls… but allow our every movement to be tracked.  Our cars still provide transportation…but they record everything about our car including where we go.  Our TV still provides “entertainment”… but keeps track of everything we watch.  Our banking, insurance, healthcare, credit, tax and investment information is recorded in detail.  We haven’t changed what we do but the information about what we do has changed.  We freely (unknowingly and without options) give more and more information away to our Corporate Oligarchy in exchange for convenience.  We are giving away control of our Liberty and our FreedomWe must stop doing this and blaming corporations for the problems we have created.

It is possible that most of the problems that we have with our Government and the corporations we interact with today stem from the misunderstanding that not all data is the same!  We need to understand that our information is something We keep and let others look at.  We need to control it not let others control it.  We shouldn’t just give it away or let it out of our control.  Ever!  We need a different information management model for the future.  This is a BIG change for the better.  We know we need to get our privacy back and keep it and the first step needs to be to recognize that not all data is the same!

Information is not just information and data is not just data and that is what We the People are all missing.  Information and data comes in all sorts of forms and formats.  Some data can be made available to everyone while other forms, such as Personal Data, should not.

The Personal Data Coalition believes We the People need to take back our Personal Data, our Liberty and our Freedom! The information that we create is our personal property and should never be out of our control. It starts the moment we are born and ends sometime after we are no longer here.   Our Personal Data is unique to each of us.

Our Personal Data should be kept in a single network connected location accessible at all times but not be out of that persons control.  If someone needs to see it, we should know who it is and grant them access.  (Which means that we need free and open access to our Personal Data at all times) If the data is accessed by warrant and properly served then our Sovereign Government has that right.  We believe and support the rule of law…and we now need a law that gives our Personal Data the status of Personal Property.  The Fourth Amendment gives protections to our personal property and it needs to explicitly include our Personal Data.

The Fourth Amendment:

Every subject has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches, and seizures of his person, his houses, his papers, and all his possessions. All warrants, therefore, are contrary to this right, if the cause or foundation of them be not previously supported by oath or affirmation; and if the order in the warrant to a civil officer, to make search in suspected places, or to arrest one or more suspected persons, or to seize their property, be not accompanied with a special designation of the persons or objects of search, arrest, or seizure: and no warrant ought to be issued but in cases, and with the formalities, prescribed by the laws.

We ask (or DEMAND?) that our Constitutional Watchdogs work to include our Personal Data as our personal property and have Fourth Amendment Rights granted to our Personal Data.  We think it is appropriate to update the Constitution to take into account the changes brought on by the advent of computers and digital technologies.  Two Hundred Years is a long time.

Make our Personal Data our Personal Property.

All electronic data that a person creates or is created for that person shall be that person’s property.  All rights to that data shall remain with the person that created the data and all searches, seizures shall require a proper warrant as prescribed by law.

It is for this reason, that we believe it is important to raise awareness to the imbalance of power in our lives.  We believe the first demand should be to give American Citizens back their Personal Property.   We Americans should consider a world that is much more efficient, accurate and cost effective using a Personal Data Archive ™ system.  Our information must be accessible in a secure manner at all times from any location and under the control of the owner of that information.  Our Personal Data has value to us, but only when it is in our control.


Personal Data

20 Jul

We believe the following are your rights to a variety of data and records.

Education; Birth and Death; Health Care; Pharmacy; Welfare; Social Security; Military; Public Service Records; Voting; Driving; Legal;

  1. Have the right to access your data and to know that it is secure
  2. Have the right to know the date, time, location and source of every data element
  3. Have the right to know if anyone is accessing your information.
  4. Have  the Federal Government provide your individual data in a simple, secure, private manner
  5. Never mix your data with the data of anyone else.
  6. Never use your data without your consent or due process.
  7. Never de-identify your data without your consent.