Tag Archives: Lutz’s Law of Privacy

Driving / Riding Will Soon Be A Privilege


Watching my young daughters play act driving a car the other day got me thinking and realizing that they are liking going to be among the last generation to be driving their own vehicle.

Word of the driverless cars (aka ‘autonomous vehicles’ as it is known within the car industry) has long been around, and what was once a concept is soon developing into reality. Some reasons (as stated by Chairman of the Board for Nissan/ Renault, Carlos Ghosn), point to “electric car sales (are) not driven by consumer demand but by regulation of emissions which in turn encourage(d) consumers to buy electric cars.” Despite what Trump and his confederates may say or believe, the support for climate control and developing ‘greener’ alternatives has become big business, with profit to be made in the ‘green energy realm’ which, a mere 20 years ago, was idly dismissed as science fiction largely held up by government subsidiaries.

No more: there’s money to be made in ‘green energy’ products and services.

But before we break out the champagne and celebrate, we need to differentiate between electric vehicles and driverless vehicles: not all vehicles are electric, but driverless cars are primarily electric (and for purposes of this discussion, we’re focusing on driverless cars).

Driverless vehicles are primarily ‘green’ and electric in nature because, well, that’s where things are going. And driverless cars are gaining greater legal acceptance, with such states as Nevada accepting applications for driverless vehicles (but not authorizing their full usage). Still, it’s a major development, especially as insurance companies see this as a boon.

‘Wait a minute’, you ask: ‘aren’t insurance companies going to lose out when cars are computer driven with no driver involvement?’

Yes – and no.

There’s going to be an initial push back as folks will find it hard to surrender control to a computer, but let’s be honest: who doesn’t want to go out and not worry about being the designated driver, sit back and watch a video instead, or catch up on Facebook as you commute to work, avoiding the stress and rage of traffic jams?

Driverless vehicles are more than just new technology: they’re a paradigm shift. For generations, we’ve been enthralled by the notion of freedom associated with owning and driving a car. Hop in and go, with notions of Jack Kerouac ‘On The Road’ in our heads. But now, with rising costs of gas, the difficulties of taking time off from work (for those of us who are still working) it’s remarkable to note the generational shift of twenty somethings who are not only not using cars, but are foregoing getting their driver’s license altogether:

Young people are not getting driver’s licenses so much anymore. In fact, no one is. According to a new study by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the percentage of people with a driver’s license decreased between 2011 and 2014, across all age groups. For people aged 16 to 44, that percentage has been decreasing steadily  since 1983.

It’s especially pronounced for the teens—in 2014, just 24.5 percent of 16-year-olds had a license, a 47-percent decrease from 1983, when 46.2 percent did. And at the tail end of the teen years, 69 percent of 19-year-olds had licenses in 2014, compared to 87.3 percent in 1983, a 21-percent decrease. (https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/01/the-decline-of-the-drivers-license/425169/)

Cars no longer represent freedom; they now represent a hassle.

But with the growth of driverless cars, the social divide is only to grow ever wider.

Entities such as Zip Cars, CarShare and others are ever more popular, especially in urban / suburban regions, with subscribers signing up for an annual membership, reserving a car online and then simply using the vehicle and returning it back to the parking lot / ‘pod’ from whence it was parked. No need for insurance, parking fees or car maintenance.

So getting back to that insurance point,…

The older generation is going to push back against the driverless car concept (the idea of not having control of one’s driving directly challenges some folks notions of control within their lives).  And with that, insurance companies are likely to raise rates for the ‘privilege’ of driving your own vehicle. Going forward, in time however, car insurance will gradually disappear as folks will opt out for ‘regular’ cars and take the driverless car option, leaving the traditional cars as mementos found in museums or driven by selective ‘driving club’ members.

Driverless cars do indeed offer advantages after all.

But not having your own car (as insurance and registration will, over time, make it more costly to drive the ‘traditional’ car) and becoming dependent on vehicles that are ‘collectively controlled’ comes with other costs – such as subscription services to the entities driving / controlling your vehicle; maintenance will still be an issue and above all, your credit rating will have a direct impact on vehicle availability and access.

Credit rating?

Think about it: if you can’t get a credit card, how are you expected to pay for your driverless vehicle?

True, one could ‘buy’ their driverless vehicle, but it, like other regular recurring costs – cable TV, your phone, electric bill, etc. – will evolve a reoccurring cost and likely driverless cars will become something focusing primarily on folks who reside within a certain socio-economic classification. People who are engaged in ‘alternative’ lifestyles are not likely to secure driverless cars unless they can ensure that nobody can monitor their movements. Meanwhile, the age-old practice of paying for a months car insurance in advance just to get the insurance card, and then forego paying the reminder will not be possible with a driverless car. Similarly, it’s arguable if driverless vehicle manufacturers are going to rush into the weak credit market (although it could be possible that we’ll see those used driverless vehicles parked in the used car lots found along side of the strip malls and created highways). Likely though, driving soon be even more limited to those able to afford the costs, while other locations will be ‘redlined’ from vehicle access.

Meanwhile, your movements will be readily accessible to court requests and subpoenas. Employers will likely be able to readily view your driving history, focusing on where you frequent, how often and how long. Spouses seeking alimony and/or opposing counsel seeking support for their legal arguments against you will be able to view your history and find ways to use it against you. Think your privacy will be protected? In this day and age, you’d better think again. With a private vehicle, you can do and go as you wish, but with the growth of driverless vehicles, this will become all part of the new paradigm.

Time will only tell, but in a couple of decades, stories like ‘Blue Highways’ and ‘On The Road’ will harkened back to the bygone, romanticized notions of freedom attained through driving. And outlaws – along with folks possessing notions of privacy – are going to find it even harder to drive with security knowing they’re not being tracked and/or monitored.

But hey: you’ll be able to keep up on your email and Facebook as you ride along.


Monitoring Your Movements


From the “I-Told-You-So!” Files

Back in the heady days of the 1990’s (ah, when life was so much different than it is now, what with the economy strong, the job opportunities available,…), a former colleague of mine (Dr. Barbara Flood) and I did a series of colloquia trying to raise awareness about the growing assault on privacy, resulting in the ASIS (American Society of Information Scientists) 1997 Washington D.C. meeting. As part of that meeting, we submitted a paper (“Creeping Peoplebases”) and I, in turn, submitted this paper.

Written in 1997, much of the technological specifics are a little out of date, but this article did (in large part) lend to the creation of Lutz’s Law of Privacy: “There is an inverse relationship between privacy and convenience: the more you have of one, the less of the other.”

But the approach hasn’t changed – and, in fact, it’s only gotten worse. With the recent news of Verizon releasing user’s call logs to the U.S. Government, along with the growing list of other privacy ‘breeches’, it leaves one to wonder where all of this going?

Breaking open a time capsule, read this blast from the past of over sixteen – 16! years ago; see for yourself where we stand,…

1997 ASIS Mid-Year Meeting Preview

“Monitoring Your Movements”
by W.E. Lutz© 1997 ASIS

“Suppose I had a good friend here in the Bureau,” Mallory said.”Someone who admired me for my generous ways.” Tobias looked reluctant and a bit coy. “It ain’t a simple matter, sir. Every spinning-run is registered, and each request must have a sponsor. What we did today is done in Mr. Wakefield’s name, so there’ll be no trouble in that. But your friend would have to forge some sponsor’s name, and run the risk of that imposture. It is fraud, sir. An Engine-fraud, like credit-theft or stock-fraud, and punished just the same, when it’s found out.” “Very enlightening,” Mallory said. “I’ve found that one always profits by talking to a technical man who truly knows his business. Let me give you my card.”

(From the book, “The Difference Engine” by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling)

We understand the many means by which our daily activities are accessed and used for specific purposes via transactional databases. We are also aware how databases from credit cards track our activities and movements and how magazine subscription listings betray our wants and desires. What we overlook, however, is how our image — our physical appearance — is accessed and employed without our consent or knowledge. Image processing, combined with routine databasing and commercially advanced tracking devices, add a new dimension to the erosion of our privacy. The routine access of personal information combined with the physical monitoring of movements creates a growing,dangerous threat to personal privacy.

The Power of Imaging Systems

Imaging systems are high-speed multi-processing portrait storage and retrieval systems. Portraits or images of individuals are taken via electronically scanning cameras, with any accompanying data files automatically linked to any computer-generated portrait. This combination of data file acquisition (fingerprint, background information, prior history) with electronic mug-shot imaging offers a powerful tool for law enforcement agencies. The power of imaging systems cannot be underestimated. It is an uncomfortable fact that many police background checks for newly arrested suspects often take 24 hours. Suspects arrested for minor offenses often are released without the arresting law enforcement agency’s knowledge of the suspects prior criminal record, owing to delays associated with standard file checks (i.e., non-imaged police data systems). An average arrest takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes to process — fingerprinting, mug shot, file processing and statement preparation. Cross referencing with state and federal databanks often requires a delay up to 24 hours. But, according to the Camden Police Department, the use of imaging systems can cut back the average arrest time to approximately 15 to 30 minutes. Imaging systems offer unprecedented portrait manipulation and rapid data retrieval of all associated file information for law enforcement. For a growing number of agencies, gone are the days of ink fingerprints and the piles of tiresome mug shots. Imaging systems allow agencies to simply type in a rough description of a perpetrator based upon eyewitness account. In some imaging systems, simultaneous access to SCIC (State Crime Information Computers) and the FBI’s NCIC (National Crime Information Computer) is enabled, allowing direct link-up with any known federal or state suspect list within a matter of minutes.Imaging systems are becoming more prevalent outside of law enforcement. ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) and surveillance cameras in convenience stores are another form of imaging documentation. Although a far cry from the imaging technology used in law enforcement, the potential is still present.

For example, in the Pepsi/hypodermic needle scare of 1993, the culprit was captured on a video camera in a Colorado convenience store. The public hears this and breathes a sigh of relief, knowing that yet another evil perpetrator has been captured. Note, however, that the capture was made after an intensive search through millions of video images taken from thousands of convenience stores nationwide. Out of all those thousands of convenience stores and from those million or so video shots, the single incriminating video still-shot of the crime was found! Based upon the single freeze-frame image, the perpetrator was caught and prosecuted.

The wonder of modern technology is renewed when one appreciates the amount of time and human resources such actions would have taken but five years ago. As video cameras are often used to monitor employees (casinos, high-security locales such as computer chip factories or other such industries), surveillance cameras are increasingly employed as a panacea for dealing with crime. Recent federal grant awards illustrate a growing trend of public housing authorities using video cameras to monitor and prevent illegal activities. DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), FBI or the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) account for a number of video cameras within high-crime locales, with criminal activity dramatically evaporating for fear of being captured on record. Local police agencies are not loath to spread rumors and gossip regarding potential locales as a means to further deter illegal activity — often when no such cameras or agencies are actually intended or involved.

Beyond Surveillance Cameras: Automobile Tracking Systems

Video cameras are not alone in tracking one’s physical movements. In New Jersey, a proposal for automatic toll collection by several previously non-linked authorities would allow motorists to open and maintain a common account with agencies participating in the automatic toll collection service (author’s note: this has long since been approved and is now active). Using strategically placed magnetic stickers, motorists could drive past automatic scanners without stopping to pay a toll collector or a cash receiving machine. The flip side to this convenience is that the participating motorist could be readily tracked while driving through toll booths across the state. Other new vehicle tracking technology has also recently appeared. LoJacks, installed in standard passenger vehicles, are gaining in popular usage, particularly in New York, Boston, Newark and Los Angeles. LoJacked vehicles possess a specific signature signal identifying the vehicle identification number (VIN). Each vehicle is thus uniquely identified so as to prevent confusion with other LoJack beacons. Upon the report of a stolen vehicle, police cars equipped with LoJack scanners cruise their assigned areas, literally homing in on the specific signal emitter (which flashes a signal every fifteen seconds) of the stolen car. In some areas, the installation of LoJacks is credited with a drop of up to 50% in vehicle thefts. The combination of imaging/picture tracking systems and powerful database sort/retrieval presents a new breach in the wall of privacy. It is no longer just a question of personal information being accessed by the varieties of databases, but rather how the average citizen is increasingly tracked in relation to this personal information. We know who you are, where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing. Soon, we will know specifically where you are at any given time.

Addressing Our Perceived Need for Security

As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and they is us.” Breaches of privacy are actively encouraged. Federal monies are offered to housing authorities for surveillance systems. We think nothing of cameras which record our every move in stores, shopping malls or at ATMs. Insurance companies offer discounts of up to 25% of annual rates for those who install LoJacks, while commuters welcome the convenience of rushing past time-consuming toll plazas. Privacy protection efforts are few and presently hold little promise. Many county sheriffs encourage families to image their children – that is, to store the personal characteristics, background information and images of children within law enforcement databanks to allow for ready and rapid retrieval if the children are kidnapped. Although one cannot argue against the safety of children, one should question the underlying premise of fear. Committing oneself and one’s children to any information system is an act fraught with long-term consequences and should be considered carefully.

Cable Television: Who Is Watching Whom?

Another vivid example of overlooking how convenience creates privacy invasion involves recent advances in cable television technology. Many cable companies employ a standard cable TV box manufactured by General Instrument (Jerrold boxes). The latest General Instrument development is the CFT2200, which, unlike most cable TV boxes, can both send and receive signals, thus facilitating pay-per-view without having to employ the telephone line or answering TV polls. Upon review, it would appear that the CFT2200 can employ home telephone lines for operation and would eventually allow for full usage of ISDN lines. Potentially, these boxes could allow for direct informational access

(i.e., Internet service providing Web TV) and may very well serve for the next wave of data access. What is disturbing about this development is the ability of cable companies to conduct real-time monitoring of viewer’s preference in TV entertainment and information access, offering simultaneous send/receive signals while the viewer is watching their shows. A detailed record of what, when and how long a viewer watched any particular show at any given moment is enhanced through new cable television technology. If the average consumer were aware of this fact prior to purchase, would so many readily accept? The difficulty lies in the average lay person understanding the power and extent of the technologies arrayed against the common person; it is this knowledge gap which makes resolving the issues surrounding the protection of privacy a formidable challenge. Many cannot readily appreciate the subtleties surrounding esoteric cable television services or imaging/monitoring technologies. As information professionals, we can share the vitality of an Internet search engine or personal communication system for common household usage while seeking out protection against privacy abuse. The question remains: where do we draw the line between the sublime and the extreme?

Options and Considerations

We are witness to the demise of our notions of privacy; this trend is congruent with rapid technological development. Luddites could argue that as technology grows, privacy dissipates; thus, technology must be curbed (so the argument goes). The genie is, however, well out of the bottle. Modern conveniences and economic advantages far outweigh any notions of denying the benefits and comforts which we amply enjoy. The approach we must now initiate rests upon legislation and education.

Education and awareness on the part of those who know and understand the reality of their surroundings remains the key to ensuring privacy. Proprietary information will remain such, but the key to economic success will be that of creative dissemination of the uses of proprietary data and/or developments. If the general public is aggressively enlightened in the ways and means of information technology, then it follows that perhaps we can expect the general population to be more discriminating when it comes to privacy protection. Just as we speak of a green consumer culture, so too we might encourage the beginning of a privacy culture. True privacy could be an emerging marketing approach given the right impetus. Effective legislation must come into play if we are to prevent further erosion of privacy. Perhaps we should consider employing European laws as models for the control of personal information and the protection of privacy. Database access or use of one’s name or other personal information could be subject to the individuals’ prior approval and/or payment — similar to royalties — with violations subject to substantial monetary penalties. The logic is inescapable: if private/public entities gain a profit from the sale and/or use of our personal information, then we should receive royalties, if we choose to participate. Those who seek not to participate in the sale and dissemination of their information should be permitted, under strict legislation, to opt out with strengthened privacy guarantees.

The time has come to reach out and enlighten legislators about the issues surrounding privacy. Some cultures hold that taking pictures of individuals and/or places robs the soul or essence of the place or person; arguably, this is now taking place. The act of taking pictures — regardless of public safety or security — constitutes an act of capturing our image without our permission. Similarly, when information is accessed — habits, purchases, profiles — could it not be argued that this is the theft of our truest proprietary data — our identities?

In the coming century, our identities will be how we appear on innumerable databases; our visage reflected in the hidden cameras and how we stand within society’s walls defined in the roll calls of databases. The time is right, therefore, to educate both the public and legislators about the relationship between ourselves and the tools which gather information about us and our fellows. Given the prevalence of modern technology, it is time to recognize that our tools are but an extension of ourselves, the surveillance cameras reflecting back our images. How we view ourselves ultimately determines how we view and shape our future. How better than to smile into the camera with a confident cheer?

The original copy can be also found here: http://www.scribd.com/welutz

William E. Lutz is a professional consultant involved with matters pertaining to security, privacy as well a records management. More about his work can be found via his LinkedIn profile of http:// http://www.linkedin.com/in/williamelutz as well as via his website of http:// http://www.welassociates.co.