Ubiquitous Computing
Brendon Lynch of Microsoft talks Privacy in the face of Ubiquitous computing

Privacy is a huge issue in this age of Ubiquitous Computing, there’s no doubt about that. Brendon Lynch has cited that ”part of the solution is that we need to bridge offline and online identities in some way,” as “trust is needed online. There is a degree of trust offline among the parties. So you want to be able to reuse that trust online but not in a way that breaks privacy.”

“We do a lot of research with all audiences,” says Lynch, “and one of the things that we find is that people are more concerned about things where there are tangible consequences to them as individuals.”

The majority who you ask will argue how uncomfortable they are with these humongous companies trading their information like sweets in the playground, and who blames them? We’d all agree that ”there’s a need for rethinking and thinking deeply around how identity is dealt with online,” Lynch points out, “In certain situations you want high assurance and strong authentication – for example, healthcare, when it moves online.” Chief privacy officer at Microsoft is one of the hardest jobs in the industry.  For a company as large and all encompassing as Microsoft, there’s no end to the issues you encounter with privacy.

Brendon Lynch is the Chief Privacy Officer of Microsoft, and has been for the past six years. This role includes responsibilities for all aspects of Microsoft’s privacy approach, like privacy policy creation and implementation across the company, influencing the creation of privacy and data protection technologies for customers and overseeing communication and external engagement with all external audiences.

Lynch, the CPO for Microsoft has indeed been talking in his soft Kiwi drawl about the company’s privacy principles and answering questions about the growing issues around more recent developments like cloud computing. Lynch says that as he surveys the landscape he sees a number of growing trends about the landscape that will affect the way consumers and technology providers think about privacy.

Ubiquitous computing is no doubt a tough sell to consumers. The technology is complicated and rather difficult to understand.  Yet what many don’t realise is that this is already a reality in some form for them. If they have a device such as a laptop, tablet, smartphone or something else–with them at all times. Data is available constantly and in virtually any form the user desires. Yes, indeed we all understand how useful that is, yet it’s a cause for concern for somebody who is trying to protect user privacy and at the same time protect Microsoft from potential privacy mishaps, it can be a major challenge. However, as computing continues to evolve and progress from being based on devices to being absolutely autonomous, the issues are going to rocket. Google Glass offers and indication of direction to our future, and there’s much more to come.

“There is a shift with computing moving away from just one or two platforms and toward the so-called Internet of things,” Lynch said when discussing how as personal data belongs on virtually any device, it will affect privacy: “That’s going to involve a different kind of thinking.”

Many things are controllable for users now by a choice on their browsers or applications. For example, ~ you can block analytics and have a certain control over cookies in your browsers, also apps on android and iphone give users the ability to enable or disable location services to help prevent tracking. But where Lynch is concerned is how will these systems work where there’s no browser or app system in the future? Also, a major challenge for Brendon Lynch is the growing revolution of cloud computing and data that is available on user privacy. Microsoft have put him in charge of Office 365 and many more recent cloud projects at Microsoft with the aim for privacy to be considered as a large part of the process. Development in attitude? Absolutely. Pitch your tent back to a decade ago when privacy was a mere afterthought at most. Since there have been calls for government intervention and regulation to control and drive privacy protections as technology becomes entangled in every aspect of users’ lives, Brendon Lynch believes that is something that he thinks could be a difficult route for people to take.

“Legislation will always lag technology,” he said. “We believe a baseline of legislation is necessary, but we strongly believe in self-regulation of industry.” – “I see job security for privacy people.”

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