Doc 'Cluetrain' Searls' privacy engine project is just the ticket for IEEE

Book coauthor's machine-readable policy effort has left the station


David “Doc” Searls, coauthor of 1999's cyber-utopian Cluetrain Manifesto, has persuaded the IEEE to launch one of two new projects seeking to inject a dose of ethics and privacy awareness into the world of technology.

The IEEE announced the two efforts today. One, initiated by Searls, is IEEE P7012, which aims to create a “standard for machine readable personal privacy terms,” because who's got time to read a privacy policy that's longer than the average mortgage document?

As the engineering institute explained, “server operators proffer all terms of engagement, including respect for privacy, forcing individuals to agree to all terms, with no alternative but to decline in totality.”

Instead, the standard would let users push back, suggesting their own privacy requirements in machine-readable form, so they can be “read, acknowledged, and agreed to” by the machines – you thought the IEEE were slightly stuffy engineers rather than hipster- or hippie-utopians, didn't you?

The announcement quoted Searls as saying: “We need a way for machines to hear and agree to terms proffered by individuals, in a way that accords with freedom-of-contract as it has been understood and practiced throughout the history of civilization.”

The machine-readable privacy standardization group will be chaired by the University of Michigan's David Reed.

The second project, IEEE P7011, seeks to standardize “the process of identifying and rating the trustworthiness of news sources,” a project that seems quixotic since Tesla supremo Elon Musk has offered to do just that as a personal project. The IEEE's effort hopes to define “semi-autonomous processes using standards to create and maintain news purveyor ratings for purposes of public awareness.”

The processes covered by the standard would include rating the factual accuracy of news stories; it will “define an algorithm using open source software and a scorecard rating system as methodology for rating trustworthiness.”

The University of Pittsburgh's Joshua Hyman will chair the IEEE News Site Trustworthiness Working Group, and presumably field endless Tweets and helpful suggestions from Elon along the way. ®

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