Thursday, April 03, 2008

Be afraid... be really afraid :)

Googling your own name might give you a couple of references to you especially if you do work in the public domain. Add to it what you have put into Facebook, Hi5, MySpace, LinkedIn or Plaxo and a more detailed picture of you is presented to your friends and colleagues of choice.

With most social networks, you may believe that you control your message and the image you project of yourself online given that it is you who chooses the information and at times who can access it.

The reality is much scarier than that. There is a tremendous amount of information about each of us in different databases all over the place. Many companies hold mind boggling amount of data about us from the credit card companies onwards. With every transaction we do, another bit of information is stored about us somewhere. If you go online to read articles and surf the net, your internet provider has a record of all sites visited. We need to add to that the amount of information available at the municipal (property for example), provincial/federal (tax, medical and others)

It was just a matter of time before all this data started to be combined together. If you want to get a glimpse into the future, read "Centers Tap into Personal Databases" from the Washington Post. Fuse in additional information such as phone number, computer IP address and all related activities and a pretty scary picture could emerge especially if rogue elements get their hands on the data or a hard drive is lost by "the forces of good" (Data Leak in Britain Affects 25 Million - NY Times).

One of the things that I found interesting with this presidential campaign is the amount of "data" used by each candidate to attack the other either with respect to voting on issues patterns, specific statements made during past speeches, pictures, ...

We are moving towards living in a very transparent society where most of your moves / interests / preferences / mistakes are for public consumption (or for political gain). The worst part is that you cannot control the information proliferation as anyone could set-up a site or send disparaging information about you to some sites / databases without recourse.

Maybe we should update Warhol's quote on fame to "In the future everyone will have their fifteen minutes of infamy" to reflect the new realities of the searchable net.

PS: I have so many references on the topic... For future entries and possibly an article.