Google borrows Facebook's privacy manual
What's behind the latest cockup?
AOL's search logs were released as a gift to the robo-sociologists of the blogosphere. (It was released by AOL's "labs", and at the time bloggers complained when AOL withdrew the data from their servers).
In this grand experiment, we're merely the lab rats, generating the data. The researchers don't know what they're looking for, per se, but the expectation is that the answer will loom before their eyes - like a shape or a phrase coalesces out of the dots of a stereogram. This is the great hope of the Hive Mind.
In RoboSociology 2.0, the epistemological quest is merely pattern recognition, and has already brought us revelations such as the news that people get more drunk at weekends.
Isn't it worth sacrificing just a little privacy when we get breathroughs like that? OK, maybe not...
This is a project without a name yet, although "Junk Science" will have to do for now.
Meanwhile, let us mull over a comment issued on December 20 by Google CEO Eric Schmidt:
"For us, privacy does not begin or end with our purchase of DoubleClick. We have been protecting our users' privacy since our inception, and will continue to innovate in how we safeguard their information and maintain their trust."
(Which brings to mind Chomsky's famous quote about Reagan and the truth. The President sincerely believed himself not be lying, having persuaded himself of the "truth" to his own satisfaction.)
A modest proposal
So what's the answer - must we all go "off grid" to avoid the data harvest? Not necessarily, perhaps.
The solution to this disaster is to obtain and publish the data contained on as many ID cards as possible as and when they are introduced, starting with oneself. As long as the police are not instructed to drag grannies from their beds at 4.00am to be enrolled, then a compromised ID per se cannot serve as a basis for refusing a person's normal rights and entitlements.
The consequence is that the UK Govt will be looking for at least 2 Luther Blissetts, the real one, me of course, and my namesake, in order to collect taxes from.
Almost two years ago I chanced upon the twilight zone of spam-blogs. It's a fascinating business. I interviewed the man behind a tool called Blog Mass Installer, which could create and populate 100 "blogs" in 24 minutes. It's undoubtedly the most flourishing corner of the web "ecology" - just see how well Google's own Blog Search Engine copes with a simple search term of your choice.
My suggestion - and it's probably a glass-half-full suggestion - is that we employ some of these formidable software talents to create our personal fictions on our behalf.
Facebook has already tried to sue an MP for impersonating himself - I suggest we focus our attentions here.
(Email and seasonal stereograms to the usual, please.)®