Sunday, July 24, 2016

Data Mining: I Can Know Everything About You

In the digital age just about everything is connected to the 'grid.' It's like a network of nodes and each node is connected. If all nodes are connected than you can transverse to any place that you'd like, assuming you have sufficient access. If for some reason you don't have direct access, odds are you can find a different route to obtain the same information. If you arrive at a node with multiple paths and must make a decision, you can probably pull 'periphery' information to increase the odds of arriving at your 'target'. 

So what does this all mean? This will be a short discussion about privacy and demonstrate how you have very little. Whether you care or not is really a subject of personal preference. If you're savvy enough, or have the desire to do so, you can also engage in counter-intelligence methods or institute defensive tactics. Such tactics may be as simple as browsing anonymously or restricting status updates or tweets. More sophisticated tactics would include creating multiple false identities or hiring a company to do so. In effect, this attempts to scramble information associated with your identity. At first glance this may seem like a viable tactic, but one must understand that your name or email address is only one associating factor. Your friends, family, or acquaintances can also serve to ID you by posting various types of information. Some people also think that not being associated with social networks or the internet world is sufficient to stay off the radar. Again, this is somewhat of a fallacy because your friends or people you know can populate information about you.

To summarize, privacy doesn't really exist in a modern economy if you choose to participate in the digital world. Using Google Maps, entering your phone number, checking in to a location, updating your social status, hell, even playing Pokemon GO, all reveal who you are and what you do. Often with unprecedented accuracy. As computing continues to evolve, including AI, it won't be long before very detailed dossiers on every person are produced. Maybe they already exist.

With all that said, is this a terrible thing? In the wrong hands it could be. If the rule of law breaks down or values are compromised such that this data is used to cause harm, then of course this is a terrible paradigm. Inevitably some of form of wrongdoing will creep in. Much of this data is currently used for marketing purposes. To sell you stuff, and figure out how to reach you. This can certainly be annoying, but probably not the end of the world. Where you really begin to have problems is when it's used to circumvent justice, identify people or groups for alternative treatment, or when it's used as propaganda to drive human behavior without their knowing. Today all of these functions are firmly in place, and people should be vigilant of misuse.