PrivacyCamp SF and the Privacy API

Last week, CDT organized the first West Coast PrivacyCamp, focused on privacy in social networks. The turnout was great – with representatives attending from Twitter, Google, EFF, ACLU, Rapleaf and many other Silicon Valley standouts. Following the agenda-setting process of previous camps, we convened twice during the day to determine the morning and afternoon break-out discussions.  The crowd was very active on Twitter, and lunch was accompanied by some great remarks on the future of Web identity by Craigslist founder, Craig Newmark.

Not unexpectedly, many of the conversations focused on Facebook’s recent privacy changes and the impact not only on user expectations, but on user loyalty. Conversations also raised interesting questions about how to avoid the various consequences of oft-changing privacy policies, either through add-ons or migrating to alternative social networks. Unfortunately, many of the attendees agreed that there was very little incentive for social media networks monetizing user information to change the trend of current practices.

What can the privacy community and users do to keep social networks free of charge and still a profitable business? How can user information continue to be a viable good without jeopardizing the implicit promise to users to preserve their privacy?

A fresh idea was raised at PrivacyCamp: The Privacy API. This would be code, released by the social network, which would allow application developers access to users’ privacy settings.  However, one high profile privacy mishap linked to the use of this technology and user trust is out the window.  Instead, a “closed” API could be offered to developers from trusted organizations, academic institutions and advocacy groups.

Based on the trusted developers’ discretion, applications could be created to build a “one-button” app that would appropriately reset users’ privacy settings. These settings could be described in detail on the application download page; they would be easy to read and understandable. This idea would save users time, hassle and concern, and the applications could be updated to adapt to new privacy changes by the social network.

This approach offers a way for social networks to leverage the strong reputations of third parties while simultaneously illustrating their commitment to user privacy. If you attended PrivacyCamp, what were some of theother cool ideas you heard?

Originally posted on

Read the rest of this entry »


Filed under: Uncategorized

Key takeways from Privacy Camp

Here’s everybody takeaways from the closing session — apologies in advance to anybody I missed:

  • international privacy law
  • how complex hybrid objects are
  • acceptance of Facebook hegemony
  • user expectation tradeoff of giving up privacy to get free things
  • you’ll never get a roomful of people to agree what kinds of permissions are necessary to transfer information to third parties
  • even if i were god of social networks i’m not sure just what’s right on privacy
  • there’s a big disparity between the privacy people want, what they get, and what they perceive they’re getting
  • different levels of privacy people get and how hard it is to synthesize to one-click
  • conflicts between wanting to innovate and wanting to innovate intelligently
  • challenges and complexity of testing good privacy practices that are easy to understand
  • there’s a lot of people who i agree with that i disagree with
  • tension between wanting people to share info and privacy
  • a lot of opportunity for products that protect people’s privacy
  • tensions between privacy and identity
  • looking at what your friends reveal about your privacy via facebook — use social networks to defend privacy
  • very daunted by the identity challenge. very much believe in the approach of multiple identities of different strengths for different purposes but see
  • the drive to the stronger aggregated identity.  is there a way to reverse that?
  • importance of maintaining user promise and not breaking user expectation — bad behavior by some actors has poisoned the well for others
  • opportunities in so many different areas.  how to harness energy?
  • human relationships are a lot more complicated than we thought they were.  not sure what we want, but it’s not what we have right now
  • we’ve gone from using a service to being the product.  so i’m going to think about what it means to be a product
  • we all agree that privacy has some value.  the value we put on it in this room may be different than others.  over the next few years, what monetary value will we put on it?
  • if you put 10 people in a room, you get 12 different definitions of privacy.  the online environment is increasingly concerned with what info Facebook gets about you from other people
  • from an activism perspective, focus on the community on one or two things — rallying cry, win a victory
  • in our group this morning, we couldn’t even agree on what a profile is, let alone what i could take with me.  we need some working groups to clarify
  • the difference between Faceook and Google is that FB has the assumption of personal investment and your personal life.  so even though there’s possibly more data in Google, FB feels more violating
  • notion of “guest developers”, trusted people like EFF getting special access to an API
  • i feel very strongly that you should be able to control your data, and move it … but what’s your data, and what’s your friends’ data?  it’s a two-edged sword, don’t know how to square the circle
  • thinking about data portability
  • the gap is widening between our ability to manage and control this as a society and the amazingly fast business and technical innovation.  consumers who are willing and able to understand will have better outcomes.  education, starting in the elementary schools
    negative discussion about anonymity, especially from privacy folks, was very intereting
  • craig’s comments gave me a real sense of the openness of the future and the potential for change
  • there’s a great potential for privacy and security products still to be built out there
  • interesting apps and platform ideas on how to protect privacy (however it might be defined).  start promoting those things and let users choose.  maybe next year we’ll be talking about privacy apps
  • tremendous interest in looking at privacy solutions — and it seems to be tremendously difficult
  • language around data portability is confused and incoherent
  • people believe what people say more than what they do
  • still confusion around identity and reputation, no surprise there.  what did surprise me was the real concern about Facebook’s hegemony and moving the goal posts.  consumer eduction will move the center
  • want to echo craig’s comments: i really want to do something about this
  • now’s the time — people care about it, and there are lots of promising opportunities
  • the people at privacy camp are the right people.  seeing the ideas that came out today and the way it moved in a progressive way

Filed under: Uncategorized

Sessions for today’s Privacy Camp

Here’s the list of sessions:


  • Social media and privacy activism,  organizing social change with social networks (room 640)
  • data ownership (portability/who owns it), right to leave (room ARC1)
  • enhancing privacy through technology (room ARC2)

12:30: lunch and speaker, Craig Newmark


  • Privacy Bill of Rights/Policies/What’s privacy (ARC1)
  • Managing your identity online (ARC2)
  • Privacy by Design/Business Models/UI (640)

3:30: closing comments

The #privacy2010 hashtag has the latest info; and Jon Pincus has been liveblogging on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy.

Filed under: Uncategorized

About Privacy Camp

PrivacyCamp is an multi-city unconference about privacy focusing on government policy and social networking.