Location Privacy

There are reports of major telecommunication companies collecting and sharing the location information of their customers. Other businesses also track a customer’s location. Regardless of the legality or if such practice is allowable due to customer agreements (like terms of service or privacy policy), I have concerns over past abuses and future potential abuse of an individual’s location information and concerns over how that information is retained and shared with others.

I believe it is a reasonable exception of privacy that an individual’s location is generally not tracked and not historically stored. However, it is also reasonable that an individual’s location will be determined and used while the person is using a product or service that requires a current location in order to function properly or provide a desired capability. Nevertheless, when the individual stops using the product or service, all tracking of location should immediately cease and past location information should be deleted. Additionally the location information should be strictly shared and communicated only with equipment and people that are related to the product or service and have a “need to know.”

The fourth amendment to the US Constitution provides privacy to citizens. Surveillance by the government is only allowed after obtaining a warrant based on “probable cause.” Sadly there are no equivalent safeguards of privacy and protections from surveillance by other entities, including businesses, corporations, nonprofit organizations, religious institutions and so on.

To properly safeguard privacy regarding location information, I suggest that law be enacted to provide the following:

  • A user must provide opt-in permission in order for a product or service to use location
  • A user must provide separate opt-in permission in order for a product or service to use location history (in other words, store location information beyond the present time and current use)
  • A user may opt-out at any time (revoke permission to location or revoke permission for location history)
    • The opt-out must be simple and easy for the user to find and request
    • The revocation of location permission must take full effect within 24 hours
    • The revocation of location history permission must take full effect and all stored historic location information must be deleted from storage within 72 hours
  • If a user does not give location permission or location history permission:
    • the product or service will continue to operate in a degraded functionality; however,
    • other capabilities not directly related to and requiring location or location history will continue to function as expected (no crippled capability nor reduced service)
  • A product or service that request location permission or location history permission must provide an easy to find and easy to understand description of:
    • why the permission is needed and
    • how the location information will be safeguarded
  • A user has full permission and right to the user’s own location information (and history) and
    • the user has full access to their own location
    • the user may transfer the user’s own location information to any device or equipment that the user owns or controls
  • The user must give explicit permission to share the user’s location or location history with any equipment or person or entity that is considered a third party and does not provide direct and relevant processing for the corresponding product or service
  • Any equipment or person or entity that is considered a third party and that provides direct and relevant processing for the corresponding product or service will be bound by the same permissions and obligations regarding location information as the provider of the corresponding product or service
  • Location information includes and is not limited to:
    • GPS location
    • other Earth based location information
    • geographical area from IP address or IP address range
    • geographical area from connecting to one or more cell towers (whether triangulated or not)
    • a Bluetooth beacon
    • any form of location information due to a user’s device that connects to any network or connects to any other equipment that is not owned and not controlled by the user
    • any location information derived from any other equipment or technology that can locate a user (regardless of precision or geographical area)
      • example, facial recognition from a camera feed at a specific location or from a camera used within a defined area
    • other location information that is deduced, inferred or derived from other data, regardless of precision or accuracy

In essence, the same expectation of (location) privacy and protection from surveillance should apply not only to government but also to corporations, businesses and other organizations.

CareerBuilder Core Values vs. Divergent Factions

First and foremost, I think that CareerBuilder is a great place to work…

CareerBuilder has five core values.  Interestingly I see a corollary to most of the factions in the Divergent movies/books.  Respectfully:

  • Candor == Candor
  • Disciplined Freedom == Erudite
  • Agility == Abnegation (?)
  • Passion == Dauntless
  • Easy to do Business with == Amity

Reference:  CareerBuilder Core Values

Becoming a Great Developer

A family member asked me, “What advice do you have for becoming a great developer?”

Quick answer: Principle of enlightened self-interest. (http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightened_self-interest)

Longer answer…

Two areas: hard skill and soft skills.  Hard skills are the capabilities in the profession.  Like programmers need to write software quickly that is correct and elegant which solves the problem or provides the needed functionality.  Soft skills, on the other hand, are abilities to interact well with other people. For programmers, they need to listen well to the customer to understand the customer’s need and to explains effectively the solution that the software provides.  Programmers often work in a team and they work in an organization (they have a boss).

In boths areas, a developer needs to continuously learn and improve.  The science of information technology is always advancing and evolving, and it seems at an increasing pace. Likewise the art of working well with other people requires experience and wisdom to not only be effective and productive, but also to help other people improve and do their best.

Corporations, good or evil?

During my past 27 years as a computer programmer, I have considered the question from time to time.   My answer has changed over the years and has been influenced by my experiences.  Sometimes I thought that corporations were the most evil things ever.  Other times I felt they were like beneficent rulers.  I was largely influenced by the situation at the time or by recently experienced.

A coworker once said that corporate culture is an aggregation or conglomeration of individuals and their values.  While I believe that this helps to partially explain working conditions, I do not think that this is the answer.

I believe that good and evil exist in the world and that most individuals struggle with good and evil in their lives and within themselves.  I have also observed that companies are neither purely good nor purely evil, rather a complex mix of both.

So let’s take a step back.  What is the primary characteristic of corporations?  Answer, they seek their own interest.  Often it involves dominance, power and gathering wealth among other things.  This speaks to their motivations and helps explain their actions and decisions.  Incidentally, the motivations of individuals in a capitalistic society are not that different.  Most individuals want professional advancement, control over their lives and financial security.  Of course there are other basic interests and needs like health, happiness, love and so on.

I think we can agree that all companies are not the same.  Some provide an environment where people can feel they are contributing something significant and feel that they are appreciated and where they are growing and advancing professionally, intellectually, skill-wise and in other ways.  Other companies simply have working environments that are toxic and are often accompanied by abuses, like excessive overtime or belittling and intimidating employees in subtle or not so subtle yet pervasive ways.  Most companies are somewhere in between.  All companies fall into this spectrum.

Returning to the idea that companies are made up of people, every employee’s influence on working conditions is different.  Different levels of influence.  Different areas of influence.  A person in upper management will have much more control over the company and by extension the working environment than a person who is staff.  A person in HR will have more influence and control over situations that are HR concerns. like protecting the company from allegations of discrimination or other actionable wrongdoing.

I have found that the immediate supervisor has the greatest influence to the extent that upper management does not enacted overarching and intrusive policies.  And let us not forget each individual also has influence over the local working environment.  A positive attitude and cheerfulness can improve conditions significantly just like a bad attitude can make people nearby more miserable (along with the individual).

Nevertheless, the greatest influence comes from people in upper levels of management or in very key positions.  So in the same way that shareholders hold people in higher positions more accountable for returns on investment, the employees should also hold the same people responsible for working conditions.

When you keep in mind that a company is made up of various people (including yourself) and that certain individuals are in key positions of influence and that a company has motivations and self interests, you will better understand why a company’s working conditions are the way they are.

If you are in a bad place, please make the extra effort to change.  Life is precious and we should seek that which is good and then share it with others.