Archive for the 'Privacy' Category

Context Connect gets another patent on private directory-based connectivity

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Context Connect gets another US patent on private directory-based connectivity (US Patent #7,340,048 – A System and Method for Directory Services and eCommerce Across Multi-Provider Networks).  The patent allows for basic connectivity calls and ecommerce transactions to take place across multiple service providers, without revealing the individuals’ contact details or information.  Given all it privacy issues surrounding an individuals’ personal details, the patent is focused on protecting one’s privacy while allow basic transactions to take place – such as a simple call to another person – calling people based on names, rather than phone numbers.

Google to store patient records

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Google announced today that it has begun storing patient records for a few thousand individuals at Cleveland Clinic.  These health records will include prescription information, allergies and medical histories and will be protected through a password-based system, which will also allow patients to have access to Google email and search tools.

The key reason for Google’s entry in the space is to expand its search capabilities, moving beyond public environments (searching on the net) to more private situations.   While it is not entirely clear how Google plans to make money from its health service, its strategy of providing more searches through its technology is always the company’s first focus. 

Not surprisingly, others have also joined the fray including Microsoft, through its HealthVault and AOL founder Steve Case through Revolution Health.   Yet, the key issue for many privacy groups is that much of this information is not covered by HIPPA, which potentially opens to door for these companies to utilize the information for other purposes, beyond simple private access by patients to their own information. 

Mobile advertising – is it finally a reality?

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According to the New York Times, Verizon Wireless will finally start providing mobile advertisements on specific content (e.g., news, weather, sports) it gives to consumer in 2007.  One can see why the carriers are doing this – current voice/data revenues are starting to flatten and they are in need for new services to drive ARPU.  And we all know the potential for mobile advertising is enormous – just ask the Google folks what advertising has done for them on the Internet.  Must say I’m the first to admit that I never thought ads on the Internet as a business model was going to fly. 

Yet the Internet and a mobile phone are different mediums.  There is something about the mobile phone that is certainly unique to us, and as such, it is as private to us as our credit cards in our wallets – we only give out our phone number when we have to.  To many, it is our last bastion of privacy.  As such, to think consumers will be ok with receiving advertisements on their mobile phone is a shortsighted assumption.

In its current form, mobile advertising for the sake of mobile advertising is a very risky play.  I continue to believe that many will never want to receive ads on their phone.  The value proposition for consumers, I believe, is different on the mobile device (as compared to a website search on Google).  For those that are willing to view ads on the phone, I believe the successful models must be based on 1) an exchange for a good, such as a free product or discounted service and 2) be as targeted as possible.  There is supporting evidence to this, with such services as free directory assistance.  There is a point in which some consumers are willing to view these ads in return for ‘something’.  This ‘something’ has to be as targeted as possible – it must be information that is viewed by a targeted population (e.g., a sporting ad targeted a rubgy community).  Generic ads to the mass market will not cut it on the mobile device..

 

IBM donates privacy tool to open source

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IBM announced it is donating a software product called “Identity Mixer” to the Higgins open-source project (focused on helping individuals manage their online identities).  The software allows individuals to purchase goods/services online while keeping their personal information hidden.  The software allows individuals to provide aliases or pseudonyms rather than your actual detail – very similar to the work we’re doing at Context Connect.  All about keeping individual information hidden, while allowing them to connect with others in a convenient and private way.  A more detailed article at News.com below.

http://news.com.com/IBM+donates+new+privacy+tool+to+open-source/2100-1029_3-6153625.html?tag=nefd.top

Personal privacy is protected again, this time over piracy searches

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In another case of protecting the privacy of individuals, a French court ruled that record/music companies cannot trace the internet addresses of individuals to find and track down music pirates, according to the International Herald Tribune.  I’m all for copyright law, but not at the expense of personal privacy.   The French got it right..

Personal data breaches increasing

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According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, there have been nearly 90 million US data records of US residents that have been exposed since February 2005.  From credit card information, social security numbers and mobile phone numbers – our information is unfortunately out there.

http://www.privacyrights.org/ar/ChronDataBreaches.htm

 

More consumer involvement is needed if privacy is to succeed…

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The topic of consumer privacy continues to be a significant issue in today’s multi-device, multi-identity world.  There are been so many ‘at risk’ areas, particularly within the Internet/mobile environment, that consumers do have a right to be concerned.  Our identities are certainly at risk given the types of technologies that can track one’s every move and purchase.

Often it is our own actions that put us at risk, not knowing the consequences.  I’ve been following the increasing interest for mobile advertising by the mobile carrier market and while the industry is still a ways off, I do believe there are a substantial number of consumers willing to trade a bit of privacy for free or discounted services.  We need to understand the trade offs we are making.

Yet, we continue to complain to the industry that our privacy is being taken away from us and not enough is being done to safeguard one’s information.  As a person from the industry, there are certainly a number of initiatives underway, both proprietary and industry-based, that are focused on improving privacy for not only the individual, but for corporations as well.  For example, our organization, Context Connect, provides platforms that are essentially abstraction layers that sit on top of a person’s actual identity (or an enterprise for that matter) – effectively working as alias profile.  This allows people to control and manage how, when and where they want to be found and connected to without revealing your actual identity in the process.  However technology can go alone so far. 

Technology certainly has been both the source and solution for many of the issues we face in today’s high tech world.  For every new slice of technology that comes out by someone, there are an equal number looking at alternative ways to compete again it, to those looking at ways of breaking the technology down. 

Yet even with the obvious problems around the ‘use’ of technology, consumers have to be more proactive, especially with one’s privacy.  Technology is here to stay – the question is how we can best adapt to give every individual an opportunity to protect themselves – love to see a consumer-led privacy group looking at ways to blend privacy and technology in our industry.  its a tough problem but one that needs the consumer, in many ways, to lead. 

Testimony to the US House of Representative on privacy and control

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Take a look at my testimony to Congress on the topic of privacy and control as it relates to wireless directory services.  love your feedback.

 http://energycommerce.house.gov/108/Hearings/09292004hearing1387/Ahn2245.htm