Archive for the ‘Privacy’ Category

The Business of Facebook

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Facebook is undeniably a phenomenal success given it’s ever expanding membership and mindshare of all the social networks, but even that has not provided it with the same money making prowess as Internet rivals like Google. So how and when can Facebook hope to start making some real money, or has that boat sailed already?

This and other similar hot topics were discussed by the panel at a Digital Breakfast NYC event which I attended off the back of my participation at the recent Copyright and Technology 2010 conference in New York (more on that here). The highlight of this event for me was the presence, on the panel, of David Kirkpatrick, Author of “The Facebook Effect”, a book which provides a fascinating insight into just how Mark Zuckerberg and co. formed Facebook, and the subsequent rapid journey it underwent to become the behemoth of social networks. The ensuing discussions between audience, panel, and chair touched on the many challenges confronting Facebook in its quest to become a ubiquitous platform. It also explored sore topics like privacy (“which means different things to different people and different generations”, according to panelist, Elend ), as well as Facebook’s difficulty getting into China and its huge user base of potential Facebookers.

My Verdict: Excellent event, great panel, stimulating conversation and a pleasant location (at the Madison Avenue office of the event host and sponsor), plus breakfast and an autographed copy of the book! Now that’s what I call an excellent start to the day.

The Privacy Dinosaur

June 2, 2010 Leave a comment

This seems to have become a key talking point of late, and many people are taking a fairly vocal stance about real or perceived invasion of their privacy rights, (as it were some sort of property). However, it appears the time has come to consider the dreaded question of whether privacy will likely become extinct in the next generation or two?

Ok, so it all started with the ever so clumsy handling of Facebook’s now habitual privacy changes, which led to expected uproar over their motives, and the hassle of changing individual settings yet again. This was swiftly followed by the mea culpa and promises to take user concerns into consideration in future. So far, so typical, but what stands out for me is that such repeated cycles of mistake and contrition will slowly erode user sensitivity to privacy over time, not only on Facebook, but also on other social network platforms where it has become the trend setter and de facto leader anyway. Interestingly, newer social networks like Twitter and the infamous Chatroulette do not seem to have quite so many problems over privacy, particularly the latter video based network which if anything appears to be all about sheer, perverse exhibitionism.

In addition, thanks to the brand new Digital Economy Act, it looks like new anti-piracy policies will mandate ISPs to log details of copyright infringers, so that repeat offenders may be sued by rights holders as and when they please. In order to do this, I suspect consumers’ browsing habits and behaviours will need to be analysed (sniffed) and recorded into said log. So I ask again, is there really such a thing as privacy in our brave new online world?


Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

The Value of Your Digital Identity – Digi Who? Digi You

March 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Yesterday’s Mashupevent on Digital Identity was an eye opener in terms of the amount of issues, concerns and opinions triggered by this particular topic. Never mind recent buzz phrases like Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion, it looks like Digital Identity may prove be the most important one to get right first.

As you might imagine, the idea of digital identity evokes a fair amount of existential angst / hubris / umbrage, and as such it did not take long for both speakers and audience to get caught up in a psychotherapy-like word association free-for-all, featuring such key words and phrases as: trust, privacy, values, morals, tolerance, permissions, boundaries, perception, human rights and even CRM, VRM and Social Media (ok, so it’s probably a geek psychotherapist). That said, there was clearly a fair amount of knowledge and experience in the room, which made for very stimulating and informed discussion (See #Mashupevent)

One thing that strikes me about the whole digital identity debate is that despite the remarkable amount of progress in creating, managing and using digital identity, businesses may be in danger of forgetting or ignoring the idea of people as contextual / dynamic beings (complete with ever-shifting moods, reactions and identities even). Perhaps this is because it is a particularly difficult challenge to overcome, especially with current limitations in technology, but rest assured that it will become even more important as people continue to expect more from the digital products and services that support their digital lifestyles.

Finally, the key question for me was a tweet asking: “What about those lacking an identity? There are many still without bank accounts or fixed addresses” by @bjh_gje. Answers anyone? Overall, it was a very interesting and informative session which was only let down by the usual time constraints of an evening session. I believe this is a topic definitely worth exploring further possibly in a full-day event devoted entirely to Digital Identity.


Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

Looking Ahead (Through the Rearview Mirror)?

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

This is really a sequel to a post written for end of last year (which can now be found here), about the likely direction of things to come, and the perils of following the crowd / herd mentality, particularly for those in the creative industries. Read on for some key messages and evidence in support of those observations:

1. Privacy? Fuggedaboudit – According to Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, “Privacy is no longer a social norm”. Yet people remain fixated with this fantasy that they can stay private online, as perhaps encouraged by such guides as this NY Times article on 5 easy steps to stay safe and private on Facebook!

2. Opening up protected video – The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) has come up with a way to enable playing of protected content on various compatible devices. So is this really Interoperable DRM at last? Maybe, but perhaps it might just be a little too late. A good explanation of this move, and its implication, is available on the Copyright & Technology blog. In any event, one key question remains i.e.: what happens to your protected digital content if / when the provider goes bust?

3. How to make the same mistake twice, or not – Moves by the publishing industry to protect revenue by delaying ebook releases smacks of a similar pattern of mistakes made by the music industry over digital content. According to this excellent Forrester blog, “there are better ways to Window eBooks” and it would be prudent for publishers to take heed.

4. The future is Mobile – Contextual applications enabled by mobile / geo-location services will be the killer proposition, no question. Just ask Google.

There you go. Comments welcome.


Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

Copyright, Digital Content, and the Internet

June 14, 2009 Leave a comment

The second World Copyright Summit, which took place last week, at the Ronald Reagan Conference Centre in Washington DC, was a well attended and successful event that drew great interest from all key stakeholders in the 21st Century’s fast-evolving, global creative economy.

Note: This post is taken from the executive summary of a report I have written about this event, which can also be found here:World Copyright Summit 2009 – Report.pdf
The main objective of the Copyright Summit was, as stated on the conference tag-line, to explore “New Frontiers for Creators in the Marketplace”, and this was achieved by providing a platform for the stakeholders (represented in both speakers and audience) to engage with each other in a series of dialogues, interviews, discussions, keynotes and general networking. One immediate outcome from this has been the wider recognition of a few key messages, which are outlined below as follows:
1. Time to Change Copyright
Right from the very first keynote, on day one, to several sessions on the second day, it became increasingly clear that most stakeholders are in agreement over the need for some far reaching changes to be made on the current copyright system before it can become more effective in protecting and incentivising creative works in a dynamic digital environment.
2. Need a Central, Unified and Authoritative Global Rights Registry
The above was identified in several of the sessions as a key enabler towards a more appropriate and effective rights management mechanism in a global digital context. The key issues are global / technology related, therefore the solution would appear to lie in taking a unified approach to implementing what some refer to as a global database for content rights
3. Accelerate the Shift towards New Business Models / Mindsets
The Google Books Settlement was repeatedly held up as a prime example of the art-of-the-possible in reaching a constructive and satisfactory outcome for all stakeholders. This model may be more difficult to accomplish in other media formats, but the fundamental requirements of an open, collaborative approach / mind-set by all stakeholders is mandatory for success. It is also becoming clear that content in digital / non-physical forms may be more appropriately positioned as a collaborative service, instead of the product-unit-centric worldview of the pre-digital content world.
In conclusion, and on the above terms, this summit can be deemed a success, and CISAC -the event organisers, deserve a hearty congratulation for their commitment in putting it all together. However, it might even be more of a success if and when the mid – longer term outcome of this Summit leads to some concrete changes in the world copyright system; and perhaps in the evolution of an authoritative / unified global rights registry; as well as the adoption of a more collaborative approach, in both business models and mindsets, by the content industries and all other stakeholders.
It is this author’s sincere hope, and recommendation, that the next version of this Summit will see the inclusion of more representatives from the developing world, as well as the much over-looked consumer / end-user stakeholder group, (which includes: ordinary citizens, students and the younger, next generation of users), that will ultimately deliver the verdict on any / all future initiatives on copyright..
Jude Umeh is a senior consultant and enterprise architect within Capgemini, and is something of a rights management evangelist. You can follow his Tweet-stream here




Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives. Also published at:

Google, YouTube – Facing the Music

March 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Ok, no one is immune to the current harsh economic realities; not even the mighty Google. A couple of recent headlines indicate the typical response pattern of revenue and cost control measures, but where will it end?

According to an article in yesterday’s Financial Times, (see online version here), Google plans to start targeting ads to search users, based on their browsing patterns and habits. This should be a win-win situation for advertisers and end-users. However privacy advocates are concerned about the implications to personal privacy. For one thing, this is not an opt-in scheme therefore users will have to explicitly request removal, also there is the danger that the browsing information so gathered might get used in ways not originally intended.

Also, earlier this week, Google’s YouTube started blocking some video content in the UK. According to an article on PaidContent, this was due to a breakdown in their music licence renewal negotiations with major UK rights society, PRS for Music. The main bone of contention, as ever, was over money: YouTube thinks the licence fees are too high, PRS for Music think otherwise. As a result:

  • Some videos get blocked in the UK (and UK users miss out on their favourite YouTube videos)
  • Cue the usual headlines, sound-bites, and blog chatter (…ok, guilty as charged)
  • Finally, something happens (e.g. law suites), and the dispute is resolved (or not).

But really, who cares? It’s all become so predictable and boring; this never-ending conflict over costs, control and a Darwinian game of one-upmanship, at the expense of the content creator and the consumer.

In other unrelated matters, last week, I gave a talk to a joint BCS / IET / ACM audience about Digital Piracy, Privacy and the Content Economy in Cambridge University’s William Gates Lecture theatre (a great venue). I got a few questions about the potential for using content control mechanisms to support things like: micro-transactions / usage tracking / audit and reconciliation. My answer was that these could also be used in combination with other measures to enable provision of: open, non-intrusive and measurable access to content for users anywhere, anytime and on any device. But that would be far too easy, and too good to be true, now won’t it?


Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

Ahoy There Pirates!

February 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Yes, this means you, you, and yes, you too. The only people exempt are those that can honestly claim to have had no contact with computing, Internet and mobile technologies, (and live under a rock for good measure), but even so I think they’d still struggle to prove their innocence on charges of file sharing.

Luckily the burden of proof usually lies with an injured party, or litigant, as is currently the case with the prosecution team in the ongoing Pirate Bay Trial in Sweden. This trial, in case you have been residing underground, was launched against the operators of Pirate Bay, (an online BitTorrent tracker website), who stand accused of contributory copyright infringement. If found guilty, the four defendants could each face a two-year jail term, and six-figure fines, just for starters. The case has attracted great public interest and media coverage over the possible outcome and implication for the global content industry (and for the unwashed hordes of ye olde file-sharing pirates & parasites. Arrrr!)

This is an interesting one to watch, if only for the unfolding drama, (I bet someone has already cornered the film rights), on which you can find further coverage here. The highlights, apart from this trial being the hottest ticket in town, include:

  • Defendants remain defiant and upbeat – you can even catch them on your favourite Web 2.0 channel e.g.: Twitter / Blogs / YouTube, etc.
  • Prosecution drops some charges – i.e. for outright copy-based infringement, but have retained the charges related to makingfiles available to the public
  • The IFPI website got hacked – Although the defendants have pleaded against such activities
  • Prosecution alters charges – apparently in a bid to ensure conviction
  • IFPI president has his day in court – and squarely blames Pirate Bay, and similar services, for damaging the music industry

I can’t wait to see which way the dice will fall on this trial, which just replays the never-ending and titanic struggle between the old and the new in their efforts to win hearts and minds.

Finally, and on a similar theme, a major ISP in Ireland has agreed to block users from accessing music swapping websites, at the instigation of the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA). Interestingly enough, this might well prove to be a more effective method for reducing casual piracy than the Pirate Bay trial. However, it also opens up a whole new battle ground between ISPs and their customers, as the latter might very well decide to change providers, and / or raise a huge stink about some violation-of-human-rights or other. Watch this space.

Note: Originally posted on Capgemini’s Technology blog.  You can see the original post, including comments, at:

About the Economy, Piracy, Privacy (and Facebook’s Face-ache)

February 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Last week was certainly hectic in the ever-dramatic world of online digital content and personal privacy. Highlights include some events in London; the ongoing Pirate Bay trial; and a major about-face for Facebook. So where to begin…?

A week is a long time in politics, and digital content, (so much so that I’ll be proposing a name change for this blog to better reflect its breadth of coverage, but more on that later). Below are just a few of the stuff that went down last week

1. Events galore – Some rather interesting events took place last week in London, and I was fortunate enough to attend the following:

  • First Tuesday at the British Library (Tuesday 17th) – This focused on how to raise money for new ventures even in a recession. Founder and VC, Julie Meyer, spelled it out to attendees in a live interview by FT’s enterprise correspondent, Jonathan Moules.
  • Computer Hacking at BCS London (Wednesday 18th) – In this sold out event, SANS security expert, Jess Garcia, broke down the latest trends in computer hacking and the implications to individuals and businesses.
  • Broadcast Video Expo at Earls Court (Thursday 19th) – ETV’s Adrian Swift noted, in his conference session on emerging media, that the path to the future lay in adopting hybrid models which combine the strengths of both existing and emerging media to reach the target audience.
  • Power of Personal Information at BCS London (Thursday 19th) – In this excellent event, Tom Ilube (Founder & CEO of Garlik), painted a stark picture of just how vulnerable people are with respect to personal information. He encouraged everyone to exercise their rights by making “Subject Access Requests” for all personal information held by organisations with which they have / had some relationship (e.g. energy, telecoms, travel and even the grocery stores with loyalty card schemes)

2. The Pirate Bay trial begins (and IFPI website got hacked) – To some, this is about “piracy on trial”, with promise of major global repercussions, but it is probably more a rerun of the age-old struggle between old & new: mindsets / cultures / business models (i.e. transition & change in general). This one is still ongoing, but it hasn’t disappointed with the expected drama. Check out Wired’s blog for regular updates on the trial.

3. Facebook’s about-face – This is now old news / so yesterday, but one major point of interest is how users can make a very rapid and visible difference to web2.0 services like Facebook. To be fair, Facebook now has a track record for responsiveness (remember the Beacon affair?), but perhaps they really should stop trying to annoy their users in the first place, but what do I know?

4. The ISP’s Dilemma – My latest article, published in last week’s edition of Computing magazine, looks at the potential impact of Digital Britain on UK ISPs

So there you have it, an eventful week indeed. As mentioned previously, I hope to rename this blog to something more in line with its topical coverage of current / emerging trends in content protection, copyright and personal privacy. DRM Blog is just so…, *ahem*, restrictive, so watch this space, and any suggestions are welcome.


Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

The ISP Dilemma (adapted)

February 11, 2009 Leave a comment

It seems of late that Internet Service Providers (i.e. ISPs) are facing some very difficult choices that could either completely change their business models at best, and / or undermine their ability to operate as independent, viable business entities at worst.

The biggest challenge by far is around the growing perception of ISPs as de-facto gatekeepers of the Internet, which effectively adds another layer of complexity to their traditional / core business. As a result, not only do ISPs have to deal with existing non-trivial issues (e.g. declining markets, convergent evolution via multi-play business models, and issues around increasing broadband / bandwidth consumption), they also have to contend with the fact that:

  • Content owners want ISPs to play a more central role in preventing, detecting, monitoring and punishing illegal file sharing (e.g. via schemes like the infamous three strikes proposal).
  • The Digital Britain interim report has called for the creation of a UK Rights Agency (to be funded by ISP Levy) that will monitor the activities of suspected copyright infringers.
  • There are also signs of lack of trust by ISP customers over service quality / charges, and potential invasion of privacy

These all add up to a severe headache for ISPs, both now and in the future, therefore some of the options they might want to consider in dealing with these challenges, includes:

  • Reduce costs – E.g. via opt-in targeted advertising schemes to help subsidise the cost of service (perhaps even extending to “free” access)
  • Stronger industry self regulation – Not easy to do, but would benefit the entire industry, and help address the pressure from content owners
  • Maximise network use / value – Invest in better ways to track, monitor and control network traffic, in order to deliver better quality of service, promote fair use, and support law enforcement
  • Partner with content owners – To explore new and more flexible content business models. E.g. a recent survey found that music fans actually prefer ISPs as their music supplier over others
  • Embrace innovations – E.g. IPv6 (or Internet 2.0), should help resolve the looming threat of insufficient IP addresses, and deliver improved quality of service.

Regardless of which options, (or combinations thereof), are considered, it is advisable for ISPs to bear the following three points in mind:

  1. Do not alienate or irritate the customer – protecting the customer relationship and keeping their trust will be key to future success
  2. Resist excessive external pressures – Content owners need ISPs as much as ISPs need them, and perhaps even more so.
  3. Take the initiative – ISPs should be more proactive in creating customer-pleasing, regulator-friendly propositions and business models (perhaps by working closely with content owners)

In conclusion, although there is no easy way to prevent what is ultimately likely to be the natural evolution of the Internet, ISPs need to understand that these current challenges also provide great opportunities to evolve and embrace their critical niche in the emerging digital access / content ecosystem.

Disclosure: The above is an adaptation of a soon-to-be-published article, by this author, in Computing magazine.

Note: Originally posted on Capgemini’s Technology blog.  You can see the original post, including comments, at:

So Just How Much Privacy Do You Really Have / Need Online?

February 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Sounds like one of those trick questions, but like with so many things the answer really depends on your point of view, (and perhaps on what you can get in exchange for said privacy). The real question I think ought to be: “what is your privacy really worth to you”?

Last month saw the BCS launch of a new book on privacy called “Virtual Shadows” by Karen Lawrence Oqvist. This event included a talk, by the author, on the topic of privacy and the information age, and it provided much food for thought / discussion for the attendees. Some key messages include:

  • Vast amounts of your personal information are already available online, (e.g. from your Internet activities, transactions and interactions, as well as participation in Web 2.0 social networking), so get over the idea of any online privacy by default. My favourite quote: “…remember that anything posted online becomes public immediately and remains in cyberspace indefinitely”
  • Government databases and other such repositories of personal information hold a lot of sensitive data about individuals, but the manner in which it is collected and used may also be eroding some individual rights to privacy. (Read more in this recent article by The Register)
  • Children are particularly at risk from commercial and other forms of exploitation. Period.
  • There’s still no such thing as free: especially for some of the “free” online services which typically work by offering something of value (e.g. content / search results / social network) in exchange for your personal information (e.g.: age / sex / location / income / online habits) or attention to adverts.

It is patently obvious that the ways in which we perceive and use personal data is changing very rapidly; because where typically an individual might expect to have some claim on personal privacy, (perhaps even as a fundamental human right), the signs point towards a future where such quaint notions of privacy might well end-up a historical artifact in our relentless march towards information nirvana. Why else do we have inane reality TV shows for every topic under the sun, and moon? Aren’t we really trying to de-sensitize ourselves to a future where lack-of-privacy is the norm? The online / mobile social networking services are slowly evolving into minutiae-based, stream-of-life feeds that, in extreme form, could effectively strip away any semblance of individual privacy. This in itself is not necessarily an issue, as long as people are allowed the power / means to manage (but not necessarily control) their own private information. The real battle remains over which party should have overall control of personal information: is it the individual, the service provider / counterparty, or a third party (e.g. government or even employers)?


Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.