Privacy and Confidentiality

Privacy and Confidentiality, by Tim McCallum
Time required: ~30 minutes
Number of tasks: 2
Number of quizzes: 2


Privacy and confidentiality is a space of great controversy, in fact I would be hard pressed to write a fiction novel nearly as exciting as the real events which have transpired, in this space, over the last few years.

“In 2013 Edward Snowden leaked thousands of classified American National Security Agency documents, sparking a global conversation about citizens’ rights to privacy on the Internet.” (Snowden, 2014)

Earlier this year, Snowden, in exile, gave a TED Talk from a remote location in Russia, via a telepresence robot, which he controlled from his Laptop. During the interview Edward was told “Some people are furious with you. Dick Cheney, for instance, described Julian Assange [1] as a fleabite, and said you are the lion that bit the head off the dog.” (Snowden, 2014)

[1] Julian Assange – best known as the editor-in-chief of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks


Tim Berners-Lee (Inventor of the World Wide Web) with Edward Snowden  at TED. Image taken by Steve Jurvetson CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons.



During his Ted talk Snowden said “The biggest thing that an Internet company in America can do today, right now, without consulting with lawyers, to protect the rights of users worldwide, is to enable SSL web encryption on every page you visit” (Snowden, 2014)

We will look at SSL as well as a recent worldwide initiative to implement SSL called “Reset The Net” shortly.

Part 1


“The state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one’s private life or affairs: the right to privacy; There is so much information about us online that personal privacy may be a thing of the past” (, 2014)


“Having another’s trust or confidence; entrusted with secrets or private affairs”  (, 2014)


In the context of privacy, metadata relates to information about connections; instances of contact between different parties using technologies such as email, voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) and online messenger applications.


Content is the information in the body of the communication. Examples of content include voice, text, data files, videos and images.

Images are particularly interesting as they are now searchable and discoverable on the web.






This image was originally posted to Flickr by Paul Fraser Bird at It was reviewed on 4 February 2013 by the FlickreviewR robot and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.



It is a good idea to check the privacy settings on images which you post to social media sites such as Facebook.

Facebook photo privacy

Facebook provides information about editing privacy settings for photo albums

Facebook video privacy

Facebook also provides information about  video privacy

Part 2 – SSL

Earlier in the introduction we mentioned SSL, let’s take a closer look at it.


Watch the following videos (time required ~ 4 minutes)

Khan Academy video “intro to cryptography encryption” (1:31)

GlobalSign Inc video “What is SSL” (2:15)

[slickquiz id=4]

Reset The Net

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Derek Slater – Google’s Global Policy Manager which gave me a new perspective on privacy, copyright and emerging technologies. I was recently introduced to “Reset The Net” after following a link in an email from Derek.

I have since learned that “Google is upping its efforts … in the wake of last year’s widespread government surveillance revelations by adding encryption to its search engine … Chinese users are already benefitting from the privacy technology … searching for terms in China like … “Tiananmen Square” will no longer attract the attention of the strict government censors monitoring the internet … A recent report from the Washington Post revealed that Google will in future encrypt all searches by default, meaning intelligence agencies like the US National Security Agency (NSA) and its British equivalent Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) will be met with indecipherable code when monitoring the search engine.” (Cuthbertson, 2014)

Protect Yourself – “The Reset The Net” initiative

Reset The Net has provided a pack which contains information and products for Mac, Windows, GNU/Linux and Phone platforms

The Reset The Net pack also provides information about securing your passwords and adding a second layer of protection using 2-factor authentication. I believe that Google was one of the first companies to introduce 2 factor authentication, the advanced sign in security post on Google’s official blog explains this concept well. Other companies currently using 2 factor authentication include Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, and Dropbox.

Take a good look at the Reset The Net  – Protect Youself Pack and have a go at the following Quiz

[slickquiz id=3]


Google has begun removing some search results to comply with a European Union ruling. This is a new process and Google processes each request individually. The court set out broad criteria for Google to remove links to information saying that a balance had to be struck between privacy and the public interest when it came to public figures. (ABC News, 2014)

In closing, it is a good idea not to post anything to the internet that you don’t wish to make public. There is the potential for anything on-line to become public. All impressive hacking and espionage aside, issues may arise from something as simple as a close friend (who is able to see your facebook images) innocently downloading and posting your image elsewhere on the web. You never know when you will need your privacy.

As time is precious, I have tried to keep this lesson under the 30 minute mark. If you would like to know more, please ask as many questions as you like in the comments section below.


Snowden, E. (2014). Edward Snowden | Speaker | [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Jun. 2014].
Snowden, E. (2014). Here’s how we take back the Internet. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Jun. 2014]., (2014). the definition of privacy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2014], (2014). the definition of confidentiality. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2014]
Cuthbertson, A. (2014). Google Begins Encrypting Search in Reaction to Government Surveillance. [online] International Business Times UK. Available at: [Accessed 26 Jun. 2014].
ABC News, (2014). Google begins removing outdated person search results. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Jun. 2014].


7 thoughts on “Privacy and Confidentiality

  1. Pingback: Private and confidential things | DrAlb

  2. Peter Albion

    Key lessons seem to be:
    1 Assume nothing is private forever and behave accordingly
    2 Use secure passwords, and 2-factor authentication where possible, to keep important data secure.
    I find using a password manager indispensable for dealing with a large number of logins on various systems. I use 1Password but there are several alternative, including some that are free.
    More of my ramblings on my blog.

  3. Ken

    Tim nice posting – thanks much. You touched on a number of topics that sort of relate to protecting individual information elements and the ways information is transmitted. All good and all important, after all, I want to be certain that I am passing banking information to my bank and I want to make sure that as little mischief as possible is done to/with it. So, let’s call that a given. Have you any or anybody else on this forum like to share any thoughts about the balance of privacy and transparency? That is, as a matter of public policy those of us living in liberal democracies tend to value freedom of expression, open information, a free press, and particularly for those of us who are part of the academy we value academic freedom. All of which require a level of transparency that may be seen to trample our sensitivities about privacy. With such low barriers to information transmission and sharing, how might we think about balancing of privacy rights and information & communication freedoms?

    1. Ken


      Here is sort of an interesting (and short) article that might be of interest: “The U.S. clamors for the ‘right to be forgotten’ regulation.”

      It touches on the idea that we ought to have the right to “be forgotten” and that touches on the notions of privacy and fraud.

      “Many respondents view the right to be forgotten as inherently linked to their right to privacy, and only 17% view legislation similar to Europe’s as a potential violation of free speech rights (17%) — though 35% worry it could promote censorship on the Internet or fraudulent activity (30%).”

      It touches on a lot of interesting and important issues. We can imagine a few compelling scenarios under which it would seem unjust to not allow for having parts of our digital identifies erased.

  4. Tim McCallum

    Great discussion thread, thanks Ken and Tegan.

    Tegan, being a part of this USQ23things pilot has really inspired new thinking. This contemporary self-directed approach has been invaluable. Great work! I hope my impromptu mutterings which follow provoke thought and entertain the group.

    I guess on the flip side of privacy we have publicity. Thankfully the low barriers to sharing and the reach of the web, provide enormous opportunities which we can use to our advantage. I have observed businesses and people thrive by engaging with their customers and peers on the web through blogging, commenting and posting lots of fresh, useful content.

    While the odd negative comment or allegation may surface, we would hope that sensible people worth knowing generally weight up the facts for themselves. In my opinion if a person chooses to buy into something erroneous from an unreliable source, then perhaps they are worth forgetting.

    It certainly seems that anonymity for some people provokes antisocial behaviour; images of road rage and internet trolls come to mind. In a traditional sense Newspaper Journalists identify themselves and stand by their work, making it widely available. I believe this adds weight around the reliability and integrity of the information. I think it is safe to say that someone would put more thought into an identifiable unretractable statement.

    A closing conundrum
    Regarding proper use of social media, if one or more parties are identified in a healthy debate, is it ok to delete information? This question could relate to Facebook comments, if an identified person is brave enough to write a constructive yet challenging comment, is it right for the owner of the post to delete it? Is deleting a tweet or comment a way to manipulate information and therefore, is deleting yet another form of misuse?


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