Private Terms for Public Conversations


Step one for talking privacy is getting our vocabulary in order. So let s start with the basics and move on to several recent terms of endearment in the data management discussion.


1 Simply, information. Usually means factual information.

Often preceded in privacy press with words like personal or user . Can take many forms online, from basic statistical information to unique, profile-building details.

2 An android on Star Trek. Terribly confusing if interchanged with definition 1.


1 The ability to keep things secluded from the observation of others.

Not an absolute notion many people have nuanced, personal definitions of the right level of privacy.

2 That which protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance. Bruce Schneier, The Value of Privacy1


1 Easily understood, obvious, open. Clear and relevant, lacking subterfuge or excess diplomacy.

Usually referred to online with regard to policies around data collection and use, which are frequently complex and obfuscated.

2 The variety of Lego block most likely to be left on the carpet, and thus most likely to cause great agony when later trod upon.


1 A text file, usually encrypted, stored on a computer in a place a browser can easily access. Acts as a kind of super name tag, carrying all sorts of data about a user from site to site. An extremely common tool for online tracking, but not the only way to do it.

2 A delicious dessert confection, particularly when created with chocolate chips.

Terribly confusing if interchanged with definition 1. As such, it s recommended you consume any of this type of cookie you have on hand before discussing the other type of cookie.

Zombie Cookie

IP Address

1 A number assigned to any device on a network. Used to help transfer information from one place to another.

Because these are unique to a device at any given time, they can be used as an element of online tracking and/or identification (see PII definiton 1, below).

2 A street location in the Ipswich postcode area in Suffolk, England; specifically Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Aldeburgh, Brandon, Eye, Felixstowe, Halesworth, Leiston, Saxmundham, Southwold, Stowmarket and Woodbridge, plus southern Norfolk, including Thetford, Diss and Harleston. Terribly confusing if interchanged with definition 1, which has thankfully never happened outside of Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Aldeburgh, Brandon, Eye, Felixstowe, Halesworth, Leiston, Saxmundham, Southwold, Stowmarket, Woodbridge, southern Norfolk, Thetford, Diss, or Harleston.


1 The US National Security Agency, which was recently revealed to be collecting enormous amounts of data on individuals, both in the US and abroad. The surveillance included gathering information from private companies through subpoenas and commercial relationships, as well as cooperation with many intelligence agencies across the globe.

2 The agency that employs the analyst that knows you re reading this glossary right now. (Just kidding.




1 An acronym for Personally Identifiable Information that is data that can be used to determine the unique identity of an individual. Varying legal definitions, but generally taken online to include things like name, address, phone number, national id numbers (e.g., social security number in the US, social insurance number in Canada, personnummer in Sweden), date of birth, even images of a person s face or handwriting. IP address (see above) is considered PII in some legal definitions as well.

2 The Pentium II computer processor, which was the greatest invention ever created by mankind (according to my roommate in 1998, who played quite a lot of Starcraft).


1 An acronym for End User License Agreement , a contract between the developer/licensor of software and the user/purchaser.

It defines the terms (usually, limitations) of use for the software, and generally attempt to remove any liability from the software creators if the use of the programs/apps cause damages.

Relevant to privacy because many EULAs also allow software creators to collect data about your usage of the software.

2 Parodied in a South Park episode, in which Kyle does not carefully read the EULA for his new tablet, and inadvertently agrees to being a part strange medical experiments.


1 The process of coding information so that only the intended recipient(s) can understand it.

Online, generally interchangeable with Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which are communication profiles designed to encrypt data transfers on the internet.

2 Not to be confused with Inception , which is generally interchangeable with a something within a something within a something and/or loud blaring baritone horns2.


  1. ^ The Value of Privacy (
  2. ^ loud blaring baritone horns (

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