A Blog dedicated to exploring privacy and technology

A Question of Transparency …

Posted by Wayne on October 8, 2009

Yesterday I was on my monthly IEEE-USA CCPconference call to discuss the 4th quarters plans, papers underway, and plans for 2010.  The topics are all around communications policy which I always find fascinating. I volunteered about a year ago to be on this committee because I felt at the time that privacy/security and communications go hand-in-hand. I also wanted to learn how a group of scientists worked together to try and influence Congress, FCC, FTC, etc.

I’ve been honored to be involved with this group since then and I’ve learned so much. When I listen to them working I think things like:

  • Scientists don’t always agree! Who would have thought!
  • Agendas exist in all facets of life and work
  • Patience is a virtue
  • Wow – these are some wicked smart people
  • Some of them have clearly embraced social networking, some seem to fear it a bit.
  • All of them really care about science and this country

The last point is alway what I leave the meetings thinking about. Without fail several of the people I work with on this team really try to foster team work while also moving forward. Without that – this is hard work and since it is volunteer work you have to feel like you are working with a group of people on something important and feel your efforts are appreciated, or else why do it? This team does that for me every time and I alway enjoy the time talking, listening, and learning from them.

The topics for this meeting ranged from “new technologies for broadband access” to “FCC spectrum reform” to “VOIP” to “Privacy and Security(my favorite of course).

The security and privacy topic has been hotly debated by all – which has meant to me that it is an important issue to the team. The issue with this particular topic is that it is a “boil the ocean” topic area – especially when you add in the communications spin. So how do we resolve it? Well once again – the insights of people on the committee who have been at this a lot longer (and are smarter than me) took my executive summary for this paper and suggested two major changes:

– Make it about privacy and security “transparency” instead of safety

– Take an example from other work by picking and prioritizing the Top 10 issues to write about (instead of boiling the ocean).

Bam – that was it. I had struggled to get my arms around it for so long because it is such a broad topic and while safety is a huge issue – from a policy perspective it is hard to generate a lot of interest at this time in our history.

Transparency – If you think about the problems with technology and privacy it often boils down to an issue of transparency. Is information being gathered that you are not aware of? Will it be used in a way unknown to you? Will it be stored somewhere you didn’t intend it to?

Add to this notion of transparency with regard to National Policy and perhaps we can suggest some things when it comes to communications systems:

  • Are we clear on what the regulations are and what the ramifications are if they are not followed?
  • Do we have a good education eco-system that enables children, consumers, citizens to understand how their privacy is being affected by the entity they are engaged with (or follow-on entities)?
  • Does our system allow for innovation by fostering collaboration between our government, academia, and commercial entities?

These are important tenets that need to permeate our national policy and behaviors as we build and manage communications systems in this country. So in my next few blogs I’ll take a shot at what are some of the areas that need changees that will enable Transparency with regards to privacy and security.  Then I’ll try to begin to distill it down to my list of the Top 10 issues – we’ll see if I hit the target and it fosters some of you to comment on it.



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