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Just in case you feel safe with Twitter

Just got a press release by email from David Rosen (@firstpersonpol) of the Public Citizen press office. The headline says “Historic Grindr Fine Shows Need for FTC Enforcement Action.” The same release is also a post in the news section of the Public Citizen website. This is it: WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Norwegian Data Protection Agency today fined Grindr $11.7 million following a Jan. 2020 report that the dating app systematically violates users’ privacy. Public Citizen asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general to investigate Grindr…

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We need a Theia

Some prophesies come true. For example, Shoshana Zuboff’s third law: In the absence of countervailing restrictions and sanctions, every digital application that can be used for surveillance and control will be used for surveillance and control, irrespective of its originating intention. She forecast that in 1989, with In the Age of the Smart Machine. Then she reported on its effects in 2018, with The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. The business model of surveillance capitalism is tracking-based advertising, which the trade…

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Let’s make May 25th Privmas Day

25 May is when the GDPR—the General Data Protection Regulation—went into effect. Finally, our need for privacy online has legal backing strong enough to shake the foundations of surveillance capitalism, and maybe even drop it to the ground—with our help. This calls for a celebration. In fact, many of them. Every year. So let’s call 25 May Privmas Day. Hashtag: #Privmas. And, to celebrate our inaugural Privmas let’s make a movement out of blocking third party cookies, since most of…

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Privacy is personal. Let’s start there.

The GDPR won’t give us privacy. Nor will ePrivacy or any other regulation. We also won’t get it from the businesses those regulations are aimed at. Because privacy is personal. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t have invented clothing and shelter, or social norms for signaling to each what’s okay and what’s not okay. On the Internet we have none of those. We’re still as naked as we were in Eden. But let’s get some perspective here:  we invented clothing and shelter long…

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How customers help companies comply with the GDPR

That’s what we’re starting this Thursday (26 April) at GDPR Hack Day at MIT. The GDPR‘s “sunrise day” — when the EU can start laying fines on companies for violations of it — is May 25th. We want to be ready for that: with a cookie of our own baking that will get us past the “gauntlet walls” of consent requirements that are already appearing on the world’s commercial websites—especially the ad-supported ones. The reason is this: Which you can also see…

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Hey publishers, let’s get past mistaking tracking protection for ad blocking

Here’s what the Washington Post tells me when I go to one of its pieces (such as this one): Here’s the problem: the Post says I’m blocking ads when I’m just protecting myself from tracking. In fact I welcome ads. By that I mean real ads. Not messages that look like real ads, but are direct marketing messages aimed by tracking. Let’s call them fake ads. Here’s one way to spot them: When you see one of those in the corner of an ad, it means the ad is “interest…

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The Only Way Customers Come First

— is by proffering terms of their own. That’s what will happen when sites and services click “accept” to your terms, rather than the reverse. The role you play here is what lawyers call the first party. Sites and services that agree to your terms are second parties. As a first party, you get scale across all the sites and services that agree to your terms: This the exact reverse of what we’ve had in mass markets ever since industry won the industrial revolution. But we can get…

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Time for THEM to agree to OUR terms

Try to guess how many times, in the course of your life in the digital world, have “agreed” to terms like these: Hundreds? Thousands? (Feels like) millions? Look at the number of login/password combinations remembered by your browser. That’ll be a fraction of the true total. Now think about what might happen if we could turn these things around. How about if sites and services could agree to our terms and conditions, and our privacy policies? We’d have real agreements, and real relationships, freely established, between parties of…

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Giving Customers Scale

Customers need scale. Scale is leverage. A way to get lift. Big business gets scale by aggregating resources, production methods, delivery services — and, especially, customers: you, me and billions of others without whom business would not exist. Big business is heavy by nature. That’s why we use mass as an adjective for much of what big business does: mass manufacturing, mass distribution, mass retailing, mass marketing, and mass approaches to everything, including legal agreements. For personal perspective on this, consider how…

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Privacy is an Inside Job

Start here: clothing and shelter are privacy technologies. We use them to create secluded spaces for ourselves. Spaces we control. Our ancestors have been wearing clothing for at least 170,000 years and building shelters for at least half a million years. So we’ve had some time to work out what privacy means. Yes, it differs among cultures and settings, but on the whole it is well understood and not very controversial. On the Internet we’ve had about 21 years*. That’s not enough time to…

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