Data don’t be evil

mrhenderson Uncategorized Leave a Comment

I was inspired when I recently read how a Google employee had secured the domain for his own company after it accidentally lapsed..and how Google had paid him $6006.13 (aka “Google”) in reward.  Even more inspired when they doubled this after he decided to donate the reward to charity.

It seems like the Google motto “Don’t be evil” really works.

Which is why I’m disappointed when I hear that government will use data sets from loyalty card schemes and scrape TripAdvisor for the purposes of catching people out (e.g. looking at the worst restaurant reviews and sending in the inspectors). Better to use data like mobile phone signal paths for planning purposes or store card data to alert people of unhealthy lifestyles – but that doesn’t generate revenue!

Actually, there is a lesson here.  Using data which is public and in the open seems fair game but government purchasing data for cross referencing (aka ‘Big Data purposes’) seems a little unfair.  Check out this project if you’re interested in the ethics of social media research.

I am increasingly convinced that “Don’t do evil” would be a good motto for our country and its governors.  But, as Google have demonstrated, it’s also a mindset.

I am also increasingly convinced that we will have to start a personal mission to protect our personal data.  Ask any savvy computer users and you’ll soon discover that they have a ‘throw away’ email address and lie frequently online to prevent their personal details from capture.  Soon I think there will be room for a service which actively distorts your identity by creating false digital signals.

This may sound paranoid (and it mostly is) but here is a plan you could adopt today:-

  • Social media less.  Whenever you post online in a “controlled” space, you’re opinion, personality and person is being “mined”.
  • Avoid getting tagged or snapped by digital cameras.
  • Use cash more.  Take out large chunks at a time.  Cash is king.
  • Avoid comparison websites.
  • Use the phone more.
  • Use Google less.
  • Avoid loyalty cards.  If you use one, lie about who you are and where you live.
  • Use a mobile phone which has a removable battery.  Top-up in store.
  • Get out of a routine.

Worse still, we all carry biometric data which is now fair game.  For example, the new Sony Z5 phone has a fingerprint detector and soon 3D cameras will be mainstream which can capture (in an instant) your exact physical dimensions.  Will data give away your DNA too?

Now go and have a look at Geocreepy and stalk some friends….that’s evil!

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