The Privacy Advocates

The Privacy Advocates: Resisting the Spread of Surveillance

Colin J. Bennett
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by:
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Privacy Advocates
    Book Description:

    Today, personal information is captured, processed, and disseminated in a bewildering variety of ways, and through increasingly sophisticated, miniaturized, and distributed technologies: identity cards, biometrics, video surveillance, the use of cookies and spyware by Web sites, data mining and profiling, and many others. In The Privacy Advocates, Colin Bennett analyzes the people and groups around the world who have risen to challenge the most intrusive surveillance practices by both government and corporations. Bennett describes a network of self-identified privacy advocates who have emerged from civil society--without official sanction and with few resources, but surprisingly influential. A number of high-profile conflicts in recent years have brought this international advocacy movement more sharply into focus. Bennett is the first to examine privacy and surveillance not from a legal, political, or technical perspective but from the viewpoint of these independent activists who have found creative ways to affect policy and practice. Drawing on extensive interviews with key informants in the movement, he examines how they frame the issue and how they organize, who they are and what strategies they use. He also presents a series of case studies that illustrate how effective their efforts have been, including conflicts over key-escrow encryption (which allows the government to read encrypted messages), online advertising through third-party cookies that track users across different Web sites, and online authentication mechanisms such as the short-lived Microsoft Passport. Finally, Bennett considers how the loose coalitions of the privacy network could develop into a more cohesive international social movement.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-26812-7
    Subjects: Technology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xx)

    If one enters the termprivacy advocatesinto any major Internet search engine, roughly half a million hits arise. In any one week, numerous media stories quote privacy advocates arguing this or protesting that. Privacy advocates are the people who, at least in journalistic parlance, challenge the development of the increasingly intrusive ways by which personal information is captured and processed: identity cards, video surveillance, biometric identifiers, the retention of communications traffic data, the use of cookies and spyware by Web sites, unsolicited marketing practices, data matching and profiling, the monitoring of employees in the workplace, the use of tracking...

  4. List of Privacy Advocacy Organizations
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  5. 1 Framing the Problem
    (pp. 1-24)

    So what is the social problem, and how has it been defined and framed by privacy advocates? The answer is by no means clear as definitions and concerns about privacy have varied over time and according to national, cultural, and academic perspectives. “Privacy” is not a self-defining phenomenon, but a deeply contested concept that frames not one but a series of interrelated social and policy issues. The concept and the discourse can be, and are, molded to suit varying interests and agendas.

    For any group that seeks to change public policy, or indeed the structural conditions that give rise to...

  6. 2 The Groups
    (pp. 25-62)

    The spontaneous emergence of numerous “voluntary associations” that can advance the multiple interests of complex societies and influence social attitudes and government policy has long been regarded as one crucial test of liberal democracy. Over the years, the concepts have been refined and different models have been developed to explain the rise of groups and to describe the patterns of “group-government intermediation” in different societies. In some countries, there are tendencies toward more clientilist or corporatist relations, where government officially sanctions certain groups over others and proactively brings them into the policymaking process. In others—notably, the United States—the...

  7. 3 The Actors
    (pp. 63-94)

    Chapter 2 readily demonstrated that the formality of group identity and structure provides only a partial and deceptive glimpse into the phenomenon of privacy advocacy. We need also to ask questions at an individual level. Most of the groups discussed above have been sustained by the energy, commitment, knowledge, and skill of specific men and women—the actors and the entrepreneurs. So who are the “privacy advocates”? How did they become such? How do they see their roles in championing this cause?

    The term “privacy advocate” is used in a very loose way in the media, as the 580,000 Google...

  8. 4 The Strategies
    (pp. 95-132)

    What, therefore, do privacy advocates do? What strategies and tactics do they pursue, and why should anyone pay attention to them? With few exceptions they do not speak for large constituencies mobilized through a mass membership. They generally have meager financial resources. According to most theories of group politics, they could safely be ignored. And yet they are not. What forms of politics do they engage in to ensure that they are not ignored?

    There are many conventional ways to approach this question that focus on the targets of group pressure and resistance. Traditionally, pressure or interest groups have been...

  9. 5 Cases and Conflicts
    (pp. 133-168)

    The privacy advocacy network that we see today has been shaped by the issues it has addressed, and the battles it has fought. We have referred to a number of these controversies along the way. It is now time to examine them in more detail. Under what circumstances do privacy issues escalate into conflicts? What roles have privacy advocates played over the years? What lessons have been learned? How have these conflicts shaped the views and behavior of today’s privacy advocates?

    There is probably a “normal politics” associated with privacy. The day-to-day, and quite routine, collection and management of personal...

  10. 6 The Networks
    (pp. 169-198)

    More than one of my respondents for this project referred to the above passage from Monty Python’sLife of Brianin depicting the privacy advocacy scene today. There is disagreement over strategic direction as well as perennial competitions for funding. There is a good deal of suspicion by those on the “outside” of the deals made by those on the “inside.” Some actors have been around for a long time. Historical legacies can create personality conflicts that endure and can be detrimental. Here is Gus Hosein of PI: “There’s this trend in the NGO community to call it “civil society.”...

  11. 7 Movements and Futures
    (pp. 199-226)

    The analysis presented so far would lead to the following conclusions about privacy advocacy. The activities of civil society actors have tended to be marginalized in literature and by other actors in the policy community. Yet their activities are more important than people realize—the cases addressed in chapter 5 substantiate that point. Further, they are becoming more visible and more important, partly because of online activism, but also in some respects because of the need to pull together in response to the increasing surveillance post-9/11.

    However, there is no concerted worldwide privacy movement that has anything like the scale,...

  12. Appendix 1: List of Interviewees
    (pp. 227-228)
  13. Appendix 2: Standard Interview Questions
    (pp. 229-230)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 231-246)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-254)
  16. Index
    (pp. 255-260)