Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Surveillance and Privacy Christmas List

It's snowing outside, it's nearly December, and the Christmas lights have been up for weeks. Alongside this seasonal joviality, I've been noticing some odd trends in toys and games recently. They're showing signs of reflecting our cultural obsession with all things surveillance. Let's see what we're putting on Big Santa's christmas list this year (remember kids, he knows if you've been naughty or nice).

Playmobil Airport Security.

Almost a classic, being available for a couple of years now. Your children can exerience the fun of being a (minimum wage) airport security worker. Coming next year, the playmobile nudotron scanner and enhanced pat-down kit, which a lot of people are already exited about.

Lego Police Car

Lego have had police for a long time, but it's good to see them keeping up to date with modern surveillance technology. This patrol officer has a handy speed camera! Thinking about resistance to this? Motorists Against Detection playset sold seperately. Unfortunately the police helicopter is being phased out and replaced with an unmanned drone, boo!

Webcam Barbie

Barbie updates her traditional christmas role of reinforcing gender stereotypes and creating body-image problems with this new variant, incorporating a web cam in her...decolletage. Probably not the sort of empowering exhibitionism written about here.

Spy Gear Lie Detector Kit

Spy Gear Lie Detector Kit - "Whether you're working for the police or the government you can now use this fantastic lie detector test to find out whether your suspect is guilty! A perfect toy for the budding police officer; it also encourages imaginative play and creative thinking. Find out who's telling the truth and who's not by giving your suspect a lie detector test. Attach the sensor to your suspect's finger. Ask tough questions to really make'em squirm. The indicator lights light up when your suspect isn't telling the truth-busted. Batteries required: 2 x AA (not included). For ages 6 years and over."

The best thing about this toy? It doesn't matter if it actually works or not, just like the real thing!

So that's presents for Michael, Helen, Hille and Andy sorted. But on a more serious note, I'm not sure how I feel about these. Intuitively, it feels weird to give kids something that encourages them to play-act being security agents, or to put their friends through an interrogation (and the barbie-thing is just a bit mental). On the other hands, these things are part of our contemporary culture and I'm sure kids will want to engage with that. These toys may also be labratories for subversion and resistance, and who knows what use might be made of them in creative and imaginative play.

We might also think about toys and games that might help young people to make sense of their current environment in playful ways. There's some stuff out there already, for example The Curfew game from Channel 4. But what would 'my first encryption set' look like?

I don't know, why can't kids have an old fashioned toys? Like a telescope for example.

Friday, 26 November 2010

New Publication: Public Sector Engagment In Online Identity Management

A paper I co-wrote with Debi Ashenden has just been published in the journal Identity in the Information Society. As befitting such a topic, it is available through Open Access, so should be free and accessible to all.

You can get the paper here.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 3rd Identity in the Information Society Workshop, held in Rome earlier in the year, and participants at that workshop were helpful in refining the arguments. It looks at the way that the government is attempting to engage with the public around the issues of online identity management - incorporating privacy, personal information managament and some basic information security. It looks at websites such as Get Safe Online, and ID fraud prevention advice. Our broad practical conclusions are that this isn't particularly effective or useful, evidences a narrow perception of the 'user' and is primarily didactic.

Theoretically, the paper makes use of governmentality theory to understand the role of government as a provider of advice, guidance, and 'best practice', through wide coalitions of actors held together through shared discourses.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

ECIW 2011 - cyber conflict mini-track

10th European Conference on Information Warfare and Security
Institute of Cybernetics at the Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, Estonia
7-8 July 2011

Conference Chair: Vahur Kotkas, Institute of Cybernetics at Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, Estonia
Programme Chair: Rain Ottis, Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, Tallinn, Estonia

CALL FOR PAPERS, Action Research, CaseStudies, Work in Progress/Posters, PhD Research, Round Table Proposals, non-academic Contributions and Product Demonstrations

Mini Track: Cyber Conflict
Mini Track Chair: Debi Ashenden Defence Academy, Cranfield University, UK

There have been a number of calls recently for research, debate and public engagement on cyber conflict in order to better understand the domain. Even deciding on the title for this track is problematic – should it be called cyber security or cyber war? In the end we’ve opted for cyber conflict to encompass both but no doubt views will differ and we would like to give those views an airing.

The argument is made that without such discussion any policy formulated will be narrow and short-term. There is a recognised need for research that crosses disciplinary boundaries if we are to develop an intellectual framework for discussing cyber conflict. The aim of this track is to stimulate discussion, to start to explore strategic issues and to encourage debate that crosses legal, political, ethical and technological disciplines

Submission details are given below. Topics for submissions to this mini track may include, but are not limited to:
The lexicon of Cyber
The problem of attribution
The differences between attack and exploitation
Citizen involvement and patriotic hackers
International partnerships
Other topics

As well as full academic papers, the following submissions are also welcomed:
Research in Progress: Researchers may submit current projects whilst they are still in progress
Case Study Submissions: Submissions should be written to publishable standards.
Poster Submissions: Welcomed in any of the areas identified in the Call for Papers.
Round Table Proposals: Topical subjects proposed for discussion.

This call for papers and further information about the conference is available online at: