Roger Clarke - the Privacy Expert

In 1971, I was working in the (then) computer industry, and undertaking a 'social issues' unit towards my degree.  A couple of chemical engineering students made wild claims about the harm that computers would do to society.  After spending time debunking most of what they said, I was left with a couple of points that they'd made about the impact of computers on privacy that were both realistic and serious.  I've been involved throughout the four decades since then, as consultant, as researcher and as advocate.

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DangerousThings - Amal Graafstra Presents at ISTAS10

Public reaction – angry. I get a lot of angry emails, calls, and things like that. There are some people that wish I’d just go away, and there are others claiming that I am somehow helping “the conspiracy”. This is just kind of a little thing that I thought up, about the cycle of fear that I’ve noticed when talking to people. So when people come to me and they’re angry about things, I try to engage them in conversation but usually they’re afraid of misconceptions about the technology. They think that somehow the GPS satellites are communicating with this tag – which really only has a three-inch read range – and somehow reporting my location, “Can’t they track you?” … the elusive “they”.

So you know, they’re afraid of something they’re not sure of and they take action because they’re afraid. Then people that know about it respond, usually poorly. This interaction reveals to the angry people that they really don’t know what it is they’re talking about. And what’s interesting is that they have a new fear then, and that fear causes them not to want to learn about the technology. They don’t want to engage, because they somehow feel that if they learn about it, maybe their fears are unfounded or whatever. But it’s a cycle that repeats quite often. So the concept is that, you know, somehow now your body is up for sale, and companies and governments are vying for it.

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