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Old 07-14-2013, 03:17 PM   #31
MattW
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Originally Posted by Xanthe View Post
There's going to come a point, though, where the amount of data collected outweighs its usefulness. Right now the companies and alphabet agencies are in the first flush of lust with all the data that's out there for the taking. Sooner or later, though, they're going to realize that there's much more chaff than wheat in all that data they've got stored, and they can cross-file and cross-check it all they want, but its never going to reveal our inner selves to them. All they are going to get are the surface details, that we probably would have revealed anyway, if only asked.
I doubt that. It's scary what you can learn about a person just from the movement data from their cellphone -- in 2009 a German politician sued the government for his cellphone metadata for the last 6 months and won. He then published the results online -- in an interactive map. You could see where he went shopping (and when), when he got up and when he went to sleep, the way he took to work, where his friends and family live (just by cross-checking public records of places he frequented) and so on. You can probably find out more about a person that way than anyone would suspect -- and that's just the metadata (the same stuff the NSA collected from millions of Americans).

See the map here (the data is "blurred", so not as exact as it really is in order to protect the person's privacy):

http://www.zeit.de/datenschutz/malte-spitz-vorratsdaten (EDIT: This URL leads to one of Germay's leading and most respected weekly magazines, so it's as safe as anything to click on]

You can make very educated guesses about who's a friend, who's a co-worker, who's a romantic partner and who someone is having an affair with just by looking at the call times and lengths without needing to actually listen to the calls. It's easier than you would suspect.

Add to that mail & Facebook correspondence (who, when, where & even what), the Amazon purchase history, your Google searches and your entire web browsing history (as stored by Facebook and now Amazon) and you'll know more about a person than even their spouse does.

So, no, it's not likely that this data will be useless. I used to think that too until I've worked with a team who did data warehousing and analysis for a big company. They could guess gender, sexual orientation, age group, income group and even place of living based on purchase history with a shocking degree of accuracy (well over 95%) where non of this data was provided by the customer.

Matt
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Old 07-14-2013, 11:52 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Xanthe View Post
There's going to come a point, though, where the amount of data collected outweighs its usefulness. Right now the companies and alphabet agencies are in the first flush of lust with all the data that's out there for the taking. Sooner or later, though, they're going to realize that there's much more chaff than wheat in all that data they've got stored, and they can cross-file and cross-check it all they want, but its never going to reveal our inner selves to them. All they are going to get are the surface details, that we probably would have revealed anyway, if only asked.
A year or so ago, there were some articles about Target's (US primary competitor to Wal-Mart) data-mining was detecting information about costumers. The lead off in one story was how this family was upset because they started getting pregnancy targeted ads from Target before the parents found out their teen-aged daughter was pregnant. There may be a lot of chaff, but sometimes examining the "chaff" gives unexpected (and unexpectedly accurate) results.
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Old 07-15-2013, 08:29 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by bgalbrecht View Post
A year or so ago, there were some articles about Target's (US primary competitor to Wal-Mart) data-mining was detecting information about costumers. The lead off in one story was how this family was upset because they started getting pregnancy targeted ads from Target before the parents found out their teen-aged daughter was pregnant. There may be a lot of chaff, but sometimes examining the "chaff" gives unexpected (and unexpectedly accurate) results.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirh...er-father-did/

From Forbes:
Quote:

“If we send someone a catalog and say, ‘Congratulations on your first child!’ and they’ve never told us they’re pregnant, that’s going to make some people uncomfortable,” Pole told me. “We are very conservative about compliance with all privacy laws. But even if you’re following the law, you can do things where people get queasy.

Bold is mine. That’s a quote for our times.
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So Target got sneakier about sending the coupons. The company can create personalized booklets; instead of sending people with high pregnancy scores books o’ coupons solely for diapers, rattles, strollers, and the “Go the F*** to Sleep” book, they more subtly spread them about:


“Then we started mixing in all these ads for things we knew pregnant women would never buy, so the baby ads looked random. We’d put an ad for a lawn mower next to diapers. We’d put a coupon for wineglasses next to infant clothes. That way, it looked like all the products were chosen by chance.

“And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn’t been spied on, she’ll use the coupons. She just assumes that everyone else on her block got the same mailer for diapers and cribs. As long as we don’t spook her, it works.”

via How Companies Learn Your Secrets – NYTimes.com.

So the Target philosophy towards expecting parents is similar to the first date philosophy? Even if you’ve fully stalked the person on Facebook and Google beforehand, pretend like you know less than you do so as not to creep the person out.
First date Philosophy. Heh.
Seems *everybody* is doing it to everybody in the virtual village.

Here, the NYT original:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/ma...anted=all&_r=0

In the olden days, when we lived in villages and were lucky to hit 40, everybody knew everybody's business. When people speak of the internet as a global village it is no metaphor.

(Privacy via anonymity is a recent invention dating back to the mega-cities of the 20th.)

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Old 07-15-2013, 10:21 AM   #34
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In the olden days, when we lived in villages and were lucky to hit 40, everybody knew everybody's business. When people speak of the internet as a global village it is no metaphor.

(Privacy via anonymity is a recent invention dating back to the mega-cities of the 20th.)
No no no, you're approaching this the wrong way. What's new is that our governments know more about us than our own family members. While it may or may not be creepy if your neighbour knows that you're sneaking out of your village hut at night to visit Ms. Goldilocks, it should, I believe, at least make you a bit uneasy that the people you've elected to serve you and your interests and who hold more or less power over your life, know your every move.

Those in power need to be held accountable and in check. That's a very simple, very important truth that citizens of the US claim to hold dear. If you want to know why, read 1984, Animal Farm or any history book about a dictatorship.

Right now, we let our governments and corporations get away with this, because we think it doesn't really affect us and because people just don't know how pervasive and effective data mining has become. "It's just Amazon/Facebook/Google," we say, "I don't have a problem with a bit of targeted advertising." You guys in the US have a fourth amendment and your (snail) mail is safe from prying eyes, but the rules for new forms of communications have not yet been established and you're letting your government get away with stuff that would make some of the great men and women in your country's history turn over in their graves (not that we Europeans are any better).

If Google asked you about your sexual history and fantasies, the state of your marriage and your finances and would like to get a list of your friends and how often you talk to them before it allows you to use its services, you'd probably get angry. But then, that's exactly what Google most likely knows about you anyway (or could know about you, if they wanted and analyzed your data).

Then, let's say that one of your former college roomates gets swept up in a terrorism investigation by accident (he knows a foreign exchange student who traveled to Pakistan, or whatever) and because you've talked to him on the phone regarding a reunion, all this info is handed over and processed by the government. And suddenly that book you bought about the hunt for Bin Laden seems a lot more sinister.

And then you're on a no-fly-list[1] and nobody will tell you why and you'll probably get a mention in a salon.com article, but the rest of the world will go on thinking everything's alright, because they're not doing anything wrong and have got nothing to hide.

Checks and balances aren't there for your average reasonable government, they're there for the day when the government tries something outrageous, so that there's someone who can stand up and say "That's not how we do things round here." and not be silenced.

And when this has finally been accepted as a fact of life and the way that the world works, what chances do people in China, Russia, Egypt, North Korea or Iran have when they're hunted by their own government?

Sorry for the rant. It's just a bit weird to me how people keep shrugging this off as "that's how the internet is". If it indeed is that way, isn't it high time we changed it?

Matt

[1] Think I'm joking or exaggerating? I'm not. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/...he-fbi/257316/
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Old 07-15-2013, 10:28 AM   #35
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Old 07-15-2013, 10:39 AM   #36
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I always find it amusing whenever someone seems to think they have a firm and completely objective grasp on what things should make everyone "uneasy."
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Old 07-15-2013, 10:44 AM   #37
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I always find it amusing whenever someone seems to think they have a firm and completely objective grasp on what things should make everyone "uneasy."
I said "I believe" and apologized for "the rant". I don't know how else I could've qualified it as my personal opinion.

I neither think it's completely objective nor do I need you to feel uneasy about anything you're not uneasy about. I just thought it's a worthwile topic of discussion. Maybe I'm wrong.

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Old 07-15-2013, 12:46 PM   #38
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I personally find it a worthwile and important topic, thanks for opening this thread!
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Old 07-15-2013, 12:48 PM   #39
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There is no objectivity possible when discussing emotional triggers.
One person's "deeply offensive" is the next person's shrug.

Me, I am under no delusion of having any specific importance to either government or big business--plus, having held security clearance I know the government already knows everything of relevance about me--so I'm more concerned about private criminals than public scoundrels. And more about price-fixers than over-eager sales staff, online or off.

To each their own.
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Old 07-15-2013, 03:30 PM   #40
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Rather than being upset that intelligence gathering agencies gather intelligence, we might be better focused on insuring that there are measures in place to detect when or if any of the data gathered is misused. As far as I know, none of the recent "exposures"
has included any evidence that some misuse of the data has actually taken place.

If you then say "but I know they must be misusing the data and keeping it secret", then your efforts should be directed at more oversight and strict enforcement for those misusing the intelligence data in some unauthorized, and/or non-intelligence way.

Exposing and prosecuting those who misuse or allow the misuse of intelligence data is only a national security problem to the extent that it exposes the details of the intelligence program that was abused. Just exposing the existence of a program can damage or eliminate its effectiveness. Going after the misusers/abusers and holding them accountable for their actions, should be our objective not some outrage over the existence of the intelligence gathering operation. We should not be calling for the elimination of such programs, but rather for very strict enforcement of harsh penalties for any misuse/abuse.

Luck;
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Old 07-15-2013, 03:35 PM   #41
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Rather than being upset that intelligence gathering agencies gather intelligence, we might be better focused on insuring that there are measures in place to detect when or if any of the data gathered is misused. As far as I know, none of the recent "exposures"
has included any evidence that some misuse of the data has actually taken place.
Taking personal data I have entrusted to specific people for specific reasons is misusing it.
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Old 07-15-2013, 04:10 PM   #42
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Taking personal data I have entrusted to specific people for specific reasons is misusing it.
Taking it and doing what with it?

Are you as upset about radar guns in police hands? Traffic Cameras? Big city community surveillance systems? How about all the measures to keep track of you and the things you purchase in stores? Life today includes many such "invasions" of our privacy, it is how the collected information is used that can become a problem.

For instance: Police fly over your community and use infrared radar on their helicopters. They often spot heat signatures that lead them to pot growers and meth labs. It can also be used, if very lucky, to locate an abducted child. But, if it were used to justify a warrant to confiscate property under the RICO laws, just to feed the coffers of the police department, then that would be an abuse in my mind.

Have any of you been watching "Person of Interest" on TV?

Luck;
Ken

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Old 07-15-2013, 04:30 PM   #43
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Taking it and doing what with it?
Taking it.

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Are you as upset about radar guns in police hands? Traffic Cameras? Big city community surveillance systems? How about all the measures to keep track of you and the things you purchase in stores?
All of those things require notification, at least where I live, have controls over how the data can be stored, and the right to see what data is being held on you, and require it to be corrected if it is wrong.
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Old 07-15-2013, 05:05 PM   #44
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Exposing and prosecuting those who misuse or allow the misuse of intelligence data is only a national security problem to the extent that it exposes the details of the intelligence program that was abused. Just exposing the existence of a program can damage or eliminate its effectiveness. Going after the misusers/abusers and holding them accountable for their actions, should be our objective not some outrage over the existence of the intelligence gathering operation. We should not be calling for the elimination of such programs, but rather for very strict enforcement of harsh penalties for any misuse/abuse.
I'd like to continue this discussion, but HarryT has told me in no uncertain terms that I'd have to open a new thread in the "Politics" subforum. So, sorry, it seems that while tax evasion and copyright law are fine, privacy is not a topic we're allowed to discuss in Mobileread's "News" section. I would've thought that this is a place where a thread can run its course as long as it's civil, but obviously, I was wrong.

Matt

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Old 07-15-2013, 06:34 PM   #45
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Have any of you been watching "Person of Interest" on TV?

Luck;
Ken
Here!
Second best show on broadcast TV.

Even granted that the show is (excellent) SF, the points it makes about the "cybersphere" we live in are valid and illuminating, no?

Everything they do in the show, from cloning phones to tapping traffic cams is old hat. Not as magically easy as they show it, but doable. The Boston bombing is one example of the uses of the embedded surveilance we live under. And Boston is nowhere near as wired as New York or DC. Or London.

From the US:
http://edition.cnn.com/2013/04/26/te...oston-bombings

From Australia:
http://www.smh.com.au/comment/boston...428-2imkl.html

From the UK:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22274770

How much things like this push your buttons is going to depend a lot of your attitudes towards technology, authority, and the rest of society around you.

This debate is far from new, BTW.
Niven and Pournelle examined the issues of security vs privacy in a wired society over 30 yars ago in OATH OF FEALTY, 1981.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_of_Fealty_(novel)

Quote:
In the near future, a race riot results in the destruction of an area just outside Los Angeles. The city sells the construction rights to a private company, which then constructs an arcology, named Todos Santos. The higher standard of living enjoyed by Todos Santos residents causes resentment among Angelenos. The arcology dwellers have evolved a different culture, sacrificing privacy - there are cameras (not routinely monitored) even in the private apartments - in exchange for security. The residents are fiercely loyal to the arcology and its management, and the loyalty runs both ways. During the course of the novel, Todos Santos is compared to a feudal society, with loyalty and obligations running both ways, hence the title. The systems at the arcology are run by MILLIE, an advanced computer system, and some high-level executives have direct links to MILLIE via bio-electronic implants in their brains. Other workers in the arcology work by telepresence, including one woman who remotely operates construction equipment on a lunar base.

Todos Santos causes resentment among Angelenos, but has improved their lives as well. The company that owns the arcology tows icebergs in, solving the water shortage for all Southern Californians. Todos Santos has dug a Los Angeles subway using a digging machine, which uses an oxyhydrogen torch. Todos Santos is at the hub of the subway system, and contains a huge mall, which Angelenos may visit. This easy access causes Los Angeles' city officials to complain about the shopping dollars and tax revenues going outside the city limits.
Note the attitude of the Angeleno establishment towards the Todos Santos Mall. Just like big city establishments towards WalMart and Amazon.

Early in the book there is a scene where an ex-LA Cop starts work in Todos Santos Security and the first thing he is told is that he is not a cop anymore; his job is not to enforce laws and rules but to serve and protect the residents. Trust and loyalty runs both ways and people are comfortable with the environment they have *willingly* embraced.
Of course, people on the outside have entrely different attitudes. The cuture clash is the the trigger for the conflict central to the plot of the novel. (Highly recommended, of course. One of the great SF Novels of the 20th.)

Even earlier, Mack Reynolds covered a lot of the same territory in THE TOWERS OF UTOPIA, in 1975.
http://www.amazon.com/The-Towers-Uto.../dp/0553068849

Quote:
Shyler-Deme is under siege! The enemy has no face. It does not show the scanners. It avoids the world's most sophisticated survellance system. But it leaves a wake of profitless crime and motiveless murder... and puts the future of mankind's paradise-on earth in peril! The Towers of Utopia - A compelling adventure into a possible future by Mack Reynolds.
In neither book is the surveilance society presented as inherently evil or inherently good, but rather the way people see it depends on where the person is coming from in the first place.

One thing common to both books is that the people raised in the culture of the surveilance society see it as neither; to them it is simply the way things are.

And that pretty much describes *our* world; like it or not, trust it or not, the System is in place. And it isn't going away just because somebody feels antsy. As long as people want to kill us just for existing, it is going to take actual evidence of actual malfeasance to even mount a challenge to the existence of thee System.

We may not have the Person of Interest "Machine" yet.
But if we don't, we soon will.
We've been on that road for 40 years now.

Last edited by fjtorres; 07-15-2013 at 06:39 PM.
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