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Expert Workshop on “Following Our Digital Footprints”

On February 16, 2011, the Oxford Internet Institute hosted an expert workshop called “Following Our Digital Footprints (

This forum addressed issues about privacy arising at the intersection of research on Internet technology, regulation and social science. The idea behind privacy is to change the default from “share everything possible” to what is the minimal amount we can share to accomplish what we are trying to do (example of letting credit card company know that you are indeed in Tokyo at the time your credit card is being used to purchase a meal in Tokyo, but not dumping all your travel information from your mobile phone GPS to the credit card company).

This begs the question: what are our current expectations about the changing technologies, and how technical changes will affect access to and use of personal information? What about treating your data like an asset, with a monetary value and I can make an informed decision about whether the trade is worth it (ie., if I get 50 pence a month, is it worth exposing my data to the people who want it?).  The current templates we are giving businesses is “grab all the data”.  How can we deliver tools to them that provide privacy protecting templates? It is easy to get people to consent to giving up their data, but they don’t really have any understanding of what this means for privacy (and privacy experts often don’t fully understand it as well). Design of security and privacy can’t be a one-off activity during the engineering phase, but needs constant attention as technology is implemented.

The topic raised a number of important issues about privacy, and the need to consider the complex socio-technical ecosystems of commerce when considering how to protect privacy while enabling economic growth.