Sunday, July 30, 2006

PET Workshop - Day 1 (June 28, 2006)

Blogging to you from Robinson College, Cambridge University. It’s been quite a successful first day to the Privacy Enhancing Technologies workshop. It appears things are getting more competitive here. In the greetings / introduction, it was announced, there were about 100 paper submissions this year, and a 25% accept rate.

Talks at the workshop kicked off with a keynote by Susan Landau of Sun Microsystems, and one of the architects of the Liberty Alliance framework. The talk touched upon the history of privacy laws and regulations, but the main crux of the talk was about how we can learn from Pugwash and become more ethical in our research.

The first session had several interesting papers. The second paper focused on how to use crypto to prevent the tracking of individuals in transportation systems. In other words, how can I use an RFID for payment, but not let people follow my signal. Interesting notion.

The final paper was by Alessandro Acquisti, who (in research with Ralph Gross of the Data Privacy Lab @ CMU) presented results from a survey of Facebook members and nonmembers regarding privacy beliefs and information they put online. The most interesting finding was that people don’t even believe what Facebook says they’ll do. For instance, if Facebook says it will combine lots of external information on you - respondents tended to answer “I don’t believe that”. Amazing. My main concern is that the reason why people share so much information on Facebook, is that the system defaults to asking users fill out their page and that all information is requested. And since people want to do the best they can, they believe they should answer every question on the form. It’s just a thought, but if it’s true it’s an example of how defaults in the Facebook system need to be reconsidered.

Better blogging and notes on the talks tomorrow. Promise.

The reception at Microsoft Research was excellent. Yummy food and tasty beverages. It’s a beautiful facility and it was a lovely bike ride from Robinson college. The greenspace out here is truly astounding, as is how bike-friendly the town has revealed itself to be.


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