Tag Archives: Privacy

MIT personas search for “Paolo Massa”

Below a video of a search in personas.media.mit.edu for myself “Paolo Massa”.

Personas shows you how the Internet sees you. It is a critique of data mining, revealing the computer’s uncanny insights and inadvertent errors. It is meant for the viewer to reflect on our current future world where digital histories are as important, than oral histories, and computation methods of condensing our digital traces are largely opaque and socially ignorant..

Allison Stokke, Web aggregation effects and privacy2.0

If you check Web aggregators (such as del.icio.us/popular or digg) you probably heard about Allison Stokke already. She is an 18 years old pole vaulter. And she is getting a lot of unwanted attention because a photo of her (here on the left) was posted on a football message board and then was hyped by bloggers, myspacers, etc. And then the Washington post deserved devoted an entire article on the front page to her and this of course made her even more popular and web searched.

I can totally understand she and her family does not like this unwanted attention. She is an athlete and she would like to be judged on that, if anything. However I believe that somehow this unwanted attention is an opportunity for her, she has a choice, she can (1) choose to let it fade away (because I’m sure that if she does not ride the situation, this attention will fade away soon, surely in one year few people will remember her or search for her on the Web) or (2) she can decide to exploit it (I’m sure she already received offers for books, interviews, for acting in movies and possibly more weird things that she can choose to exploit if she likes). I’m also aware that it should not be an easy period for her, I was reading that she does not feel like walking around alone.

Let me just mention passing by that it is just by pure chance that she (and not another similarly attractive athlete) got all this attention. This attention is just the product of Web aggregation. There is an interesting paper by Duncan Watts which empirically shows that, while aggregation produces items that got a lot of attention (the best sellers, top 10, etc.), in different separated worlds with the same items, the social processes will put at the top of the global attention list different items. In a different parallel world this could have been happened to you, yes you. So what happened is something that touches all of us and should make all of us think about it. But I guess this is not a relief for her and her family.

Personally, I think that you cannot control what other people tell about you, and this is become more and more true in the Internet age. I’m used to summarize it with “it’s the direction of the arrow, stupid!”, meaning that you can control what you say about other people (outgoing arrows) but you cannot control what other people say about you (incoming arrows). It is the reason by which PageRank algorithm is so clever and HITS algorithm is not so clever. I’m aware this can sometimes turn into bashing and horrible periods for some people but I think this is also a great opportunity for society and the risks can be mitigated if anyone is educated about this and slow in judging.

The last point I want to briefly mention is about privacy, especially privacy in time of web2.0. Is it ethical for me to write this post knowing that she does not like this attention? Is it ethical for the Washington Post writing an article about her? Is there any difference? I’m not sure about the first 2 questions but I believe that the answer to the third question is “no”. WithLeather asks her/his/itself How would I feel if it were my daughter that got this unwanted attention? Well, I suppose I would be upset but I think I don’t have the right to ask to all the people to not write about, I might ask for their comprehension on reporting facts accurately or to defer from speaking about this. Don’t know. And more, There should be a Wikipedia page about Allison Stokke or not?

What is great about blogging is that it helps you ask yourself lots of questions. Another advantage of this post is also that I can now check the access statistics to see if this post becomes the most read post just because it contains in the title the name of a buzzed girl and it is related to sex.

Google follows Yahoo! in personalizing search

Google hurries up after Yahoo! yesterday MyWeb2.0 announce: Google Relaunches Personal Search – This Time, It Really Is Personal.
Huh? Google gives an example (not yet posted live) that says:
For the query [bass], Google Personalized Search may show the user results about the instrument and not the fish if that person was a frequent Google searcher for music information

How would Google know you are a frequent music information searcher? It could monitor the types of queries you do and use various methods to tell if you seem to be searching for music information often. But another method — and one using technology Google has already has demonstrated — is to monitor what you click on in the results.

(FYI, a Google patent on personalization based on bookmarks that recently came to light is covered in this SEW Forums thread and in great depth in this Cre8asite thread. Another recently discussed patent also covers things like using clickthrough measurements to refine results. In addition, Google has personalization technologies and patents from past acquisitions, such as Outride).

Patents on personalization based on bookmarks?!? Google recording all the links you have ever clicked and using them?!?
I think I’m going to switch from Google to Yahoo!, just to foster diversity. Yahoo! is more Flickry and more reassuring to me at the moment.

Enormous P2P Network by Google

When millions of users will have Desktop.google.com installed, Google will simply release a new version in which the user can check a box and say “Share the files in my disk” (maybe only files in a certain directory). This will create in a second an enormous P2P (peer-to-peer) network, in which you can search for files directly on other users’ disks. What do you think? Make sense?
UPDATE: If I were Google, I let users choose also “share your files only with your friends on Orkut”. In this way Orkut would becoma a uber-useful network (now is a bit pointless), and Google Corporation will have all the worlds users for all the services. And increase what it knows.

What Google knows about you

Just few days ago I was commenting on new google features and now we have another one: Desktop.google.com. It allows to index and search every file stored in your filesystem, every site in your Internet Explorer cache, every email in your Outlook, every chat/instant message in your AOL. (It is only for Window$ so I have no way to try it.)
This reminded me of a post of Alf Eaton:Things Google knows about you. The list (now increased) is pretty scary.
Continue reading