Tuesday 27 March 2007

Blogs as new sources of research data - what about privacy?

Last week I went to an interesting workshop at the e-Science institute in Edinburgh called ‘New Kinds of Social Data: from Blogs to Administrative data'.

The meeting was targeted at researchers in academia and government and those concerned with long time archiving and access of social data. My primary interest was in the privacy and data protection implications of using these new data resources. A talk I found particularly interesting was given by Karen McCullagh, entitled ‘Blogs archives and privacy’.

Karen is currently working on her PhD. You can find out more about her research project here. The survey on 'Bloggers Privacy Expectations and Attitudes ' is no longer live but Karen hopes to make the results of this survey available at this link shortly.

All of the presentations from the workshop are available online.

Monday 26 March 2007

Google, YouTube and IP infringement

Interesting article by James Boyle in the Financial Times last week. He was talking about Google, YouTube and intellectual property infringements by major corporations.

Read the article

I particularly liked the following paragraph:

"When we are dealing with intellectual property, how do we know who is a trespasser and who is a greedy landowner trying to enclose the public right of way? First lesson, analogies to physical property are dangerous. Most of these disputes are about whether a new market, enabled by technology, should lie inside or outside the scope of the artificial monopoly conferred by the intellectual property right. Because these rights are created for a purpose - to foster and disseminate science, innovation and culture - there are inevitable "should" questions involved. Should copyright make it illegal for a search engine to index my book (which requires making a copy of it) if only a small fragment is available to a searcher and publishers can request removal? Google has a very good argument that copyright should not and does not make that illegal."

This relates to conversations I've been having with Peter Buneman recently about the appropriateness of the current copyright regime in a digital environment. More to follow on that one...

Thursday 22 March 2007

US to create a universal database of all its research results.

News that the US government is considering a massive plan to store almost all scientific data generated by federal agencies in publicly accessible digital repositories.

Read about it in Nature.com

Wednesday 21 March 2007

Handy FOI Resource

I came across this useful Freedom of Information resource today:


If you have any questions about Freedom of Information, you could make a useful start here. Alternatively you could send your query to the DCC on info@dcc.ac.uk as we'd be happy to help you.

Friday 16 March 2007

UNESCO publishes survey on ethical implications of emerging technologies

UNESCO has published a survey of the ethical implications of emerging technologies. The technologies covered include the semantic web and metadata, radio-frequency identification, the geospatial web and location based services, mesh networking and grid computing. For the ‘technologically-challenged’ amongst us (I count myself in this group) the report starts with a very useful overview of the technologies covered. It then sets out two “Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies”. These are:

(1) Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; and

(2) Access to Information and Communication (which is split into Public Domain, Diversity of Content on Information Networks and Unfettered Access to Information)

Amongst the recommendations made at the end of the report is the establishment of a community of technologists to protect personal data. The authors, Mary Rundle and Chris Conley state that:

the control of personal data flow will prove pivotal for the exercise of human rights and access to information in the Information Society. This factor is one of the most important identified in this survey of “Ethical Implications of Emerging Technologies” as technology will increasingly have potential to be used to wield control over people’s existence.”

Wednesday 14 March 2007

Google assisting in massive data swaps

I'm a bit tardy in reporting this one but there was an interesting article on the BBC website recently about how Google is helping academics around the world to exchange huge amounts of data.

The firm's open source team is working on ways to physically transfer huge data sets up to 120 terabytes in size. Google sends scientists a hard drive system and then copies it before passing it on to other researchers. It hopes that one day the data it helps to swap will be available to the public.

On the legal perspective the article says,
Google keeps a copy and the data is always in an open format, or in the public domain or perhaps covered by a creative commons license

A bit vague...?