June 2007


Privacy & Sillycon Valley Biz13 Jun 2007 02:39 am

In an interesting article on Monday, privacy activist Lauren Weinstein issued a call for an “At-Large Public Ombudsman” at Google, to help them address their ongoing privacy and other matters.

Since then, some discussion has been going on via Dave Farber‘s “Interesting People” (“IP”) mailing list.

On a number of occasions I’ve had strong disagreements with Lauren, but I’m with him on this one. Unfortunately though, I just don’t see it happening. Why? Here is my response to the discussion thread on IP:

What Lauren has described is in many ways the essence of a Chief Privacy Officer… someone who minds the store on privacy matters in a proactive way, moving easily between technical, marketing, strategic, and legal matters, and making sure the hard questions are asked (and answered) long before products launch. At many large consumer-facing companies the CPO heads a team of privacy professionals who become a central resource for executives and front-line personnel alike, across the entire company, across all business units and at all levels of the organization.

When I created the first corporate CPO position and dedicated corporate privacy team back during the dotcom boom days, some people scoffed at whether a dedicated privacy person (much less a whole team) was really necessary. Yet one need only look at the evolution of the industry over the last decade to see that the need for a CPO role and/or team at many organizations has been proven beyond any shadow of doubt.

My work in evangelizing the importance of the CPO role led me to a fascinating meeting at Google back in about 2001. I was told that they were hiring a lawyer to work on privacy matters, but I was somewhat surprised that they defined that “privacy” role as mostly limited to responding to subpoenas and other similar procedural matters. When I inquired about how they were intending to address the bigger privacy issues that were already starting to nip at their heels, I was told that privacy was so deeply engrained in the corporate ethos that they really didn’t see the need for a role like a Chief Privacy Officer.

Apparently they still don’t.

I walked away from the interview shaking my head, knowing then that privacy was going to be an ongoing headache for Google. The last six years have proven me right: with almost every major product/service release, glaring privacy issues have been evident and the company always seems shocked and surprised that anybody raises the issue. Time after time, it’s clear that stuff is going out the door without any evidence of serious attention to, or mitigation of, those glaring problems.

I think Lauren’s proposal is sound. But when I made a similar pitch directly to senior level executives at Google back in 2001, and again in 2004, the concept was met with such resounding indifference that I was forced to conclude that privacy at Google was evolving from a blind spot into an elephant in the room.

Today, I fear that acceding to a proposal such as Lauren’s would require them to admit that they’d gotten this one fundamentally wrong. Unfortunately, the hubris that led them into this blind alley will probably prevent them from escaping it anytime soon.

Regards,
-Ray Everett-Church
http://www.privacyclue.com

Radio Show12 Jun 2007 04:17 pm

Here are tonight’s news items that I’ll be talking about on when I join my friend, David Lawrence, for my weekly segment on his radio show, The David Lawrence Show:

Pfizer investigated for data breach

Report: Google wins ‘race to bottom’ on privacy

Podcaster says Google Desktop vulnerable to attack

Pentagon Confirms It Sought To Build A ‘Gay Bomb’

Remember, you can always download the audio of this hour, or any hour, from David Lawrence’s website for a micro-payment of 25¢. You can also subscribe to them via iTunes at David Lawrence Unplugged and have them automatically downloaded to your computer.

Good Eats & Miscellany11 Jun 2007 11:24 pm

My friends and family all know that my partner and I are pretty fond of Las Vegas. It’s a great town, full of excitement and really great times. From the amazing shows to the fantastic food, we love Vegas.

In recent months, I’ve become hooked on two podcasts that are all about Vegas. The first was The Strip Podcast, with Steve Friess and Miles Smith. It’s a fantastic show, in no small part due to the incredible interviews that Steve gets through his work as a freelance journalist for some pretty major news publications. His blog and podcast have gotten attention because he has broken a few big scoops about various Las Vegas business and entertainment happenings. Miles is no slouch either: he’s the producer on the nightly news at a Vegas television station.

If you’re at all interested in some of the behind-the-scenes things happening in Vegas, or just want really interesting insights into the happenings of the *real* city that never sleeps from the perspective of some locals whose jobs involve digging into what’s really happening, check out The Strip Podcast.

But the real reason for this blog post is that I have created my first new cocktail, inspired by a call from my other favorite Las Vegas-related podcast, Five Hundy by Midnight. Hosted by Tim and Michele Dressen from their home in Minnesota, “FHBM” comes from the perspective that most of us have: occasional visitors to Vegas who spend their time between visits… planning their next visit! :-)

On their most recent show, Michele put out a request: they want a FHBM drink. I have attempted to rise to the challenge!

Searching my vast memories of drinking… well, only half-vast anyway… I actually remembered a drink I’d had a few years ago called the “Five In the Morning.” I also remembered reading it in a cocktail recipe book I got for Christmas a few years ago. As I recalled, the drink is a little bit like a Long Island Iced Tea, just smaller, with a few fewer ingredients, and with a slightly sweeter taste.

To turn the Five In the Morning into something different, I was inspired to change some of the ingredients based upon a comment from Michele: “…maybe something with Captain Morgan’s in it…” Having been a long time fan of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum, and in particular their incredibly smooth “Private Stock,” it wasn’t hard for me to think up a way to make the Five In the Morning a little different. So, in the great tradition of cocktail invention — namely taking an existing drink and changing a couple of things to make a new drink — I have created…

The Five Hundy By Midnight Cocktail

Ingredients:

* Ice
* 3/4 oz Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum (Private Stock if available)
* 3/4 oz Tequila
* 3/4 oz Gin
* 3/4 oz Vodka
* 3/4 oz Triple sec
* 3 oz Orange juice
* 1 oz Sour mix

Mixing instructions:

Place ice in glass and pour in the five liquors, followed by the orange juice and the sour mix. Shake and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

I tried making one tonight and it was pretty good. I might tinker with some of the amounts of things over time, but there you have it! The Five Hundy By Midnight. I hope Michele and Tim enjoy it half as much as I’ve enjoyed their podcast.

And if Steve and Miles want a cocktail, they just have to ask. :D

Radio Show05 Jun 2007 11:17 pm

Here are tonight’s news items that I’ll be talking about on when I join my friend, David Lawrence, for my weekly segment on his radio show, The David Lawrence Show:

MySpace seeks advice in sex offender investigation

Google denies Street View has privacy issues

Cisco, other tech giants push into surveillance

Remember, you can always download the audio of this hour, or any hour, from David Lawrence’s website for a micro-payment of 25¢. You can also subscribe to them via iTunes at David Lawrence Unplugged and have them automatically downloaded to your computer.