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You are responsible for your own internet privacy

Tom Kaneshige | Oct. 24, 2014
Bill Clinton's run for presidency nearly derailed when rumors surfaced that he had smoked marijuana during his time in England. In an effort to control the damage, Clinton admitted that he indeed experimented with the illegal drug but "didn't inhale." Imagine how history might have changed if a video of a glassy-eyed Clinton with a joint between his lips had shown up on Youtube (which, of course, didn't exist at the time).

We're right now at a nexus with Internet privacy. There's clearly a desire to share. The first generation was about sharing photos of, say, when you're at a party passing the bong around. Now people are saying, 'wait a minute.' When I read about millennials and privacy, it seems reasonable to me they're like the canary in the coal mine. They're seeing this challenge and reacting to it.

The Snapchat story and others like it tip the scales toward the millennial desire for increased privacy. I don't know the innards of Snapchat, but this idea of a photo being only available for a certain time and then forgotten -- what if you hack the servers so that everything flowing through it gets copied off to another device? That's what happened to Target with all that credit card info. RAM scrapers were siphoning it off and sending it somewhere else. Do you foresee the United States following in the European Union's footsteps with its "right to be forgotten" efforts?

Stahl: I have real technical questions on the "right to be forgotten," with things like the Wayback Machine. How do you get it out of those kinds of places? There's a recent report of a thousand people asking Google to forget them, and Google has complied with 42 percent of the requests. What about the other 58 percent? If you have the right to be forgotten on Tuesday, what about Wednesday? What you do on Wednesday might not necessarily be forgotten. We have to work through what the right to be forgotten really means. Is privacy even possible? How are you getting around these challenges?

Stahl: It's a hard problem. We're really working hard at building infrastructure in a way that, even if it's hacked, information is still kept private. Part of the secret sauce is the idea that any information coming into gets split up into pieces at the user browser level and sent to different servers. Then it takes pulling all the pieces together from the different servers to get something that is meaningful. I'm guessing you have a very diminished digital footprint, right?

Stahl: Actually, I don't. I'm very careful on the financial side of my digital footprint. But I'm also in business, so I Tweet, blog, give talks regularly and mostly over the Internet, my company has a presence on the Web. I pay attention to what matters, from a privacy perspective, and what doesn't. It's our responsibility to take care of our own privacy.

The Internet is the greatest invention perhaps since the printing press. Just look at the great and wonderful things we can do with it. The fact that we can do online banking is wonderful. But everything has unintended consequences; there's always a dark side. Will your behavior change if you're at a bar and somebody is wearing Google Glass?

Stahl: Oh god. Stay tuned for that one.


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