If you have a spare laptop or computer check out Folding@Home, a distributed computing project for performing molecular dynamics simulations of protein dynamics (currently focussed on aiding a COVID19 vaccine).
SCENARIO 1 : An educational organisation is transitioning to virtual classes and is using an online platform to deliver to the students. Teachers are working hard to digitise the content and subsequent workflow for all involved. During some of the online lessons, a couple of students innocently post images of the classes with all the faces plus full names of their fellow students publicly on social media.
SCENARIO 2 : A small company wants to ensure its employees are staying connected and has started using a messaging system which the teams are asked to download on their devices. This creates the opportunity for work discussions along with more personal communications, just like a work environment. The platform they use gets infiltrated with a spambot and it starts sending phishing messages to all the employees personal contacts in their phones contact book.
SCENARIO 3 : A large governmental department is starting to utilise a new video conferencing platform as everyone is working from home. Its operations and the information shared are highly confidential as they deal with issues of national security. Due to a flaw in the video system, some of the discussions are accessible to other parties who use it for nefarious means.
The question about liability bounced around for about a week until I got the following response via this tweet from John Edwards, Privacy Commissioner of New Zealand:
Employees are obliged to follow any reasonable instruction from an employer. If an employee conveyed reservations about using a particular tool and the employer said please proceed, they would likely be obliged to follow that instruction. The employer assumes the risk.
Agree. I would put it in writing to have a record of the concerns being raised. Employer should record the direction in writing too.
So if you are working from home and you have concerns regarding your privacy please do detail them via email with your employer. You might want to also ask for some risk assessment and scenario planning from the leadership also.
Stay safe and sane out there, plus wash your hands!
With citizen lockdown now spanning half the globe, don’t forget about privacy during these times.
Most work environments are now private homes. Collaborating and staying in touch with colleagues has changed rapidly, so lets have a quick look at the main areas through a privacy lens:
As we replace normal face-to-face meetings with video conferencing platforms, Zoom has exploded due to it’s simple interface and scalability. However, there are historical and current issues to be aware of when considering using this service:
One option if you can’t get away from using the platform is to not download the app but log in via a ‘secure’ browser to a meeting using a something like Brave or Epic (just don’t have the app downloaded and click the link from the invite which takes you online).
Zoom though is not the only option out there. Other alternatives include:
If you can use a browser based video conference option (along with a proxy-based privacy-centric browser) then the only thing to allow is access to camera and microphone, which can be turned off again in the browser settings once the call has finished.
To replace the casual opportunities for quick chats and interactions the office offers, think about setting up a group channel utilising chat functionality to stay in touch.
Something like Slack is very popular for this as might already being used in a corporate setting, but again this has privacy considerations [Are Your Remote Work Apps Spying on You?]. Some folks also utilise WhatsApp although this is owned by Facebook who have a history of capturing and then commodify data for external use like influencing elections etc.
Explore something like Signal or Telegram which have end-to-end encryption. Also, both have desktop versions so your phone can be kept for personal use and you’ll only be ‘at work’ when on your computer.
PERSONAL vs WORK
You might be using personal technology devices for the first time for work such as laptops and / or phones plus other tablets.
For laptops / home computers / tablets, set up a separate user account so that all work activities plus programmes / apps are set up there. For phones there’s also an iOS and Android option (hat tip Mike Riversdale)
This will aid the psychological perspective of ‘going to work’ in the morning when you log on to these accounts.
If you’re adding any apps to your personal phone during this time ensure you’re not giving access to all your contacts and access fully to your phone.
Also, if you have any smart speakers running Alexa or Google Assistant, consider that they also now are privy to your calls and any verbal interactions you have. For some professions unplug the devices completely as they could become a potential security risk for information leakage.
Truly appreciate there are bigger things going on for many at this time plus many will be mandated by ‘HQ’ on preferred systems / platforms / apps (which again why setting up alternative user accounts and separating personal devices from work is important).
Remember to read the privacy and data policies of any websites, platforms and technology being utilised and make informed choices from that basis.
Very much open to other alternatives explored above so add them in the comments below and will check them out plus add to the blog post.
At the time of writing, we have nearly four hundred cases here (no deaths) and taking this approach could ensure the spread is contained.
Nearly all of my paid work has been cancelled although I just got notified I was approved for the COVID-19 Employer Payment for the next three months.
I feel lucky to be where I am.
However, the whole world is sharing this experience and every country is approaching it slightly differently, although many are adopting as isolation strategy.
I’m wondering (out loud) what good can come as we collectively pause together:
We weren’t ready for this. Some knew:
It’s becoming clear that a mammoth economic recession is coming, along with a radical disruption of societal systems. This is a start not the end, and our overlapping society of nations will have to rethink many of its operating structures.
There’s a collective growing literacy at understanding exponential curves, inter-dependent industries and sectors plus how much small percentage points matter when it relates to economies.
Everything is being revealed as fragile.
Although this does present an opportunity to reflect on what is important. How, after a certain level of comfort and freedom is gained, everything else is a bonus.
We’ll also be critiquing the stale idea of traditional working cultures as swathes of humans turn to digital methods to deliver and continue their workload. However, as the crisis abates, I feel there will be a massive hunger for the physical and in-person again.
There are no special cases when princes, politicians, celebrities are getting it. The real super stars are those illustrating the innate goodness of humans:
Wildlife have rediscovered usually polluted areas like the canals in Italian cities:
As time goes on, this global pause will provide precious data and critical evidence for scientists to go further in proving the impact we’re having on the world.
Talking here about the wider understanding that we all share a common space and are part of an operating system which is now in danger of collapsing.
Our streets and towns and cities personify the quiet we need to reflect on what’s crucial. To ask questions which transcend a rigged monetary system, to recognise the importance of community and amplify the need for evolving the politics of our time.
This forced reset is also ironic, separating us all from symbiotic elements of family, friendship, food, nature, place, space etc. which make us, us.
Going forward, the medical (especially front-liners) and educational establishment needs to be elevated, celebrated and remunerated properly (along with others who are now deemed ‘essential’ like rubbish men, supermarket workers, warehouse workers etc.), whilst we dull the idea of celebrity in its importance.