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You’re Leaving a Digital Trail. What About Privacy?

30 November, 2008
Published: November 29, 2008

Cambridge, Mass.


“collective intelligence”  —  The term has a nice ring to it doesn’t?  It conjures up images of book clubs, charities, committee meetings at schools, churches, local government offices, maybe even state government offices, groups of smart people pooling their know-how and energy to solving the crisis that plague human existence on this planet.  Only it isn’t true.



Collective intelligence is an “emerging field” [that is] [P]ropelled by new technologies and the Internet’s steady incursion into every nook and cranny of life, collective intelligence offers powerful capabilities, from improving the efficiency of advertising to giving community groups new ways to organize.” 



Okay, so is does have communiity organizing in there somewhere and that may be a good idea depending on how you use that kind of organizing.

On the other hand, I don’t think we need a more efficient method of advertising; I think we are “advertised” to abundance already.  Everywhere I look, backs of busses, street-side benches, check-out counters, big box stores, television, internet, my cell phone, someone is trying to sell me something I don’t need but will surely want if they can only find the right button to push.


“There is a whole new set of metrics that no one has ever measured,” said Greg Skibiski, chief executive of Sense. “We were able to look at people moving around stores” and other locations. Such travel patterns, coupled with data on incomes, can give retailers early insights into sales levels and who is shopping at competitors’ stores.”  


“DR. PENTLAND says there are ways to avoid surveillance-society pitfalls that lurk in the technology. For the commercial use of such information, he has proposed a set of principles derived from English common law to guarantee that people have ownership rights to data about their behavior. The idea revolves around three principles: that you have a right to possess your own data, that you control the data that is collected about you, and that you can destroy, remove or redeploy your data as you wish.

At the same time, he argued that individual privacy rights must also be weighed against the public good.”



After the last eight years this idea of weighing my rights against the common good worries me just a bit because so much depends on who defines the terms.  

But the following discussion both worries and fascinates me.


“Indeed, some collective-intelligence researchers argue that strong concerns about privacy rights are a relatively recent phenomenon in human history.

“The new information tools symbolized by the Internet are radically changing the possibility of how we can organize large-scale human efforts,” said Thomas W. Malone, director of the M.I.T. Center for Collective Intelligence.

“For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew,” Dr. Malone said. “In some sense we’re becoming a global village. Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly.”


Call me an abherration, but I’ve become quite used to my privacy and I’d like to keep it, thank you, or at least have control over it.  I am certainly not looking forward to the good old days when everyone knew everyone else’s business.  It may take a village to raise a child, but eventually that child wants to move on – and usually far away.  But that’s just me; maybe you feel differently.  If so, tell me why.



read the story here:

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