Thursday, December 25, 2014

Separating private from potentially public

With privacy so big in the news as a coder I've been in the past worried about the lack of a clear demarcation line, like on a personal computer as that's what's most familiar to me, between information that is potentially public and that which is locked from the web. For instance in the past I've coded applications that have full disk access, and I'm like, why?

So I'm not as sure about what's going on currently, though I'm talking about it as something that I need to figure out for current ideas, and talking things out is what I do, so sorry if things are better now, but no, very glad if things are better now. And this post is going to be simple concepts, like think about how most people go into their own homes.

You know, you unlock the door, walk into it, close the door and have what's called an expectation of privacy.

Contrast with a computer application you downloaded, opened the door one could say, and that thing is now like a best friend who can walk into your house, go into the fridge and drink some of your milk, but why?

Why not have a public area, like a front yard, where the apps can go? Or maybe even a living room, but get really suspicious if they start rummaging through your bedroom, metaphorically.

The clearest demarcation would be private versus potentially public, where people could have data that their system would refuse to share to the web. So to share that data they'd have to move it out of the Private Area to the Potentially Public Area. Then their system is like their home. It has boundaries, and for people to see into their home, they have to break through those boundaries but it's not just open.

How restrictive would that be? For lots of apps, not at all. Like if you have music, and apps that handle music, would they care if your music is in the Potentially Public Area? Nope. Would you have music in the Private Area? Sure, if for instance you were a musician, or someone who likes to sing for their own amusement and would be horrified if that were shared, but those apps don't need that information either.

The home analogy is a good one I think, as on your personal computer it is like a part of your home. For a company, you can simply shift the analogy, like you can have a lobby and these aren't complicated ideas and I'm sure I'm not the only person who has had them, but am talking some thing out.

Actually posted on this subject April of this year. Here's the link for the curious:

Why not a Java sandbox?

There I was grousing a bit on the security side, as I think that you can do app security in a completely different way if an app knows it only can access certain data, like only your music files in your Potentially Public Area, adding in that idea. Then app security is trivial for the developer.

It's such a natural kind of thing that I wonder why computer operating systems were built the way they were, but suspect that long, long ago in a time far, far away when operating systems were being built there were other issues that were major concerns.

Enough for now, as I can edit later. Ok, will edit later, that's just about guaranteed.

James Harris
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