Social media, 3rd party data storage, and warrants

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Just a quick post about this article which I came across this morning regarding warrants going after facebook data. This is a very interesting trend with both privacy as well as public policy implications for the continued advancement of technology. One of my colleagues, who I did some privacy and ethics writing with earlier this year, and I have been preparing a paper on the problems the border searches of laptops cause from a technology adoption perspective – essentially our argument in brief involves technology becoming more and more a form of external cognition, and such searches discourage the continued progress for fear of privacy violations.

The flip side of this argument, is technology is adaptive and the past has demonstrated a continued evolution of technical solutions to circumvent legal interference. The evolution of peer2peer networks from Napster to the Pirate Bay and beyond is particularly illustrative. Attempts by US corporations and ICE to shut down these systems have met with increasingly sophisticated adaptations – decentralization, distributed trackers, moves to DNS registrars and TLDs outside of US jurisdiction, encryption, private tracking and so forth.

The former, chilling effect on technology adoption, is more applicable to low technology users who are not competent to judge the measure of their privacy in an online ecosystem. The latter is more applicable to high technology users – early adopters with significant technical savvy and understanding of the implementation details these systems use. Low technology users are more apt to unwittingly void their privacy even if their expectations of it are objectively unreasonable or to not adopt the technology out of fear. High technology users are more likely to meet the legal challenges with technical solutions – like an immune system – to move the technical state of the art continuously ahead of the legal competence.

There is a paper in here somewhere, but that will have to wait until I return from my study abroad session and get back into work mode.

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