PrimeLife and privacy

I take my online privacy relatively seriously. I don’t upload photos of myself to Flickr/Facebook/forums. I use an alias that’s age and gender non-specific. I don’t ‘friend’ randoms on Facebook and I keep my location (even which city I live in) mostly confidential. Considering that, it’s not surprising that my ‘free choice’ of Enterprise 2.0 topic is related to privacy.

Just from searching ‘web 2.0 privacy’ I found what appears to be a very intersting project under development by IBM. It’s called ‘PrimeLife‘ and appears to be supposed to help people manage their information and privacy throughout their lives. Actually, its goals are stated as being  to:

provide scalable and configurable privacy and identity management in new and emerging Internet services and applications, such as virtual communities and Web 2.0 collaborative applications

and

protect the privacy of individuals throughout their entire life span“.

I find this a mixed bag. On the one hand, the ability to micromanage my privacy and security is very welcome. On the other hand, PrimeLife appears to be a centralised store of everyone’s private information and, if it were ever compromised, could land vast amounts of sensitive data in the hands of people who would abuse it.

That said, PrimeLife is supposed to be a three year project and was only started in 2008, so it’s not expected to be launched immediately. Perhaps by the time it’s finished, the digital landscape will be so different as to render some or all of these issues irrelevant. I don’t think that’s likely, but it could happen.

It also raises questions about who actually owns data. With personal use of a technology like PrimeLife, I would imagine that such a question would be straightforward (unless, I suppose, PrimeLife itself makes some sort of claim to people’s data in return for protecting it) but in the corporate setting, things could be different. Would employees or the company own the data PrimeLife was keeping confidential? Would that prompt PrimeLife to arrange ‘corporate’ accounts for businesses? Although at the moment, PrimeLife seems geared towards only dealing with individuals, I suspect it would eventually attempt to service the corporate world as well.

Still on the theme of PrimeLife with respect to enterprise, I can see it potentially solving problems such as employees disclosing sensitive information. I don’t know enough about how PrimeLife would work to know if it is capable of that, but if it doesn’t fill that niche, maybe some other technology will. From what I’ve read, it seems that it is mostly focused on ‘removing virtual footprints’ so perhaps it won’t monitor the information being published as much as the metadata that goes with it.

Whatever PrimeLife turns out to be, I feel confident of some things about it – firstly that it offers highly desirable assistance in maintaining privacy and confidentiality and, secondly, that it offers a highly desirable target to hackers and people out to steal information/identity/other stuff.

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