Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Social Networks Businesses Google Privacy The Internet

Google Researchers Warn of Automated Social Info Sharing 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-post-what-you-want-kept-private dept.
holy_calamity writes "Researchers from Google have written a paper about how social networks can undermine privacy. The most interesting scenario they discuss is 'merging social graphs' — when correlating multiple social networks makes it possible to reveal connections that a person has intentionally kept secret (PDF). For example, it may be possible to work out that a certain LinkedIn user is the same person as a MySpace user, despite their attempting to keep their profiles separate. The Google solution is to develop software that screens new data added to a social network, attempting to find out if it could be fodder to such data mining."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Google Researchers Warn of Automated Social Info Sharing

Comments Filter:
  • Well. (Score:2, Insightful)

    What do you expect?

    Wasn't there a data-mining incident where Netflix "scrubbed db" and IMDB was combined so that users were uniquely identifiable? I mean, if enough information was mined, how many unique people would we come up with?

    Google and all the others are just putting the screws where they would logically tighten. It's as much google's fault as it is everybody who holds individuals data (and google probably does so much more securely).

    • Re:Well. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday January 09, 2009 @08:21PM (#26394659) Homepage

      Also in the "what do you expect?" vein, you're putting lots of personal information on various websites that are publicly available worldwide. What kind of privacy are you expecting?

      Hell, I maintain totally different personas on several sites and in many cases have different lies about my identity on each site, and I can still see how people would put the pieces together.

      • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Friday January 09, 2009 @08:30PM (#26394743) Homepage

        Also in the "what do you expect?" vein, you're putting lots of personal information on various websites that are publicly available worldwide. What kind of privacy are you expecting?

        While that is a completely fair thing to point out, there is a very important thing that it misses: other people can put information about you online, without your permission, and that information is just as subject to analysis as what you put up.

        The two best examples that come to mind right away:

        1. Facebook allows users to tag photos with the names of the people who appear in them.
        2. Google Street View puts photos of your residence without asking you for permission, and correlates it to a bunch of other stuff like geographic information, satellite images, yellow page listings, web search results, etc..

        Notice that both of these acts are perfectly legal, and while the second arguably should be regulated and restricted by law (the aggregation, correlation and publication parts, not the picture-taking part), the first one ought not to.

        • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Friday January 09, 2009 @08:42PM (#26394801)

          --While that is a completely fair thing to point out, there is a very important thing that it misses: other people can put information about you online, without your permission, and that information is just as subject to analysis as what you put up.

          Absolutely true. However, this information also falls under libel laws in cases which it false and harms the subject.

          ---The two best examples that come to mind right away:
          ---1. Facebook allows users to tag photos with the names of the people who appear in them.

          It may be a stretch to call it this, but posting stories and pictures usually is a form or journalism, regardless the content and methodology of dissemination. Also, photographers need a release whenever the photo is not taken in a public area, or accessible from a public area of a person who does not consent. It is not a crime to fail to get a release, but a nice tort claim.

          ---2. Google Street View puts photos of your residence without asking you for permission, and correlates it to a bunch of other stuff like geographic information, satellite images, yellow page listings, web search results, etc..

          Google, as long as they obey the law in terms of public/private property, they have full legal standing, and shouldn't be regulated. However, they did get in trouble when they went down private roads, with nice posted NO TRESPASSING signs peppered all over, which the GooCam dutifully captured.

          ---Notice that both of these acts are perfectly legal, and while the second arguably should be regulated and restricted by law (the aggregation, correlation and publication parts, not the picture-taking part), the first one ought not to.

          Sounds like Google-Hatred. Somehow we should just make a law for Google, because they spy on us!! Guess what: You have as much access to the same pictures as I do. And if there is any sort of law, it's that I'd like posting on who (specific names/residences) viewed some area in high resolution. You know, watch the watchers. Sous-veilance.

          • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Friday January 09, 2009 @08:59PM (#26394943) Homepage

            However, this information also falls under libel laws in cases which it false and harms the subject.

            It may not have come across, but I was assuming that the information in question was true, and, taken on its own, largely trivial and harmless. I'm not thinking of a case where, for example, somebody says on their blog that you committed incest with your aunt. I'm thinking of cases like, for example, a hypothetical social networking application that allows people to list you as somebody they know, without requiring your authorization. An application like that would be just as much subject to the kind of analysis detailed in the article, which could easily uncover lots of information about people who never volunteered any of it.

            It may be a stretch to call it this, but posting stories and pictures usually is a form or journalism, regardless the content and methodology of dissemination. Also, photographers need a release whenever the photo is not taken in a public area, or accessible from a public area of a person who does not consent. It is not a crime to fail to get a release, but a nice tort claim.

            So, what's really the essential difference between these three acts?

            1. Showing your friends, in person, a printed-out photo of some people at your party, and pointing out which of them is Joe Smith.
            2. Uploading the photo to your Facebook page, and tagging it with Joe Smith's name.
            3. Publishing a hard copy book or newsletter that shows the photo, and label the photo with Joe Smith's name.

            The law was created to make a distinction between informal sharing and dissemination of the first sort, and "publication" of the third sort. You don't need any model release for #1, and the journalism or modeling arguments are largely irrelevant.

            The problem here is that case #2 falls squarely between #1 and #2. Should it be subject to the law for informal sharing, the law for printed publications, or some new, yet-to-be-developed body of law? (And would the court system be able to handle the caseload that treating informal online sharing always as "publication" would imply? People share stuff informally all the time, and they increasingly do it online.)

            Google, as long as they obey the law in terms of public/private property, they have full legal standing, and shouldn't be regulated.

            "As long as Google obeys the current law, they're obeying the current law, and therefore, we shouldn't change the law."

            Um, what? That's a transparently bad argument. This is an argument about whether the law should be changed. Whether Google is following the current law correctly is completely irrelevant. You can't defend againt an argument that the law is wrong by saying that the acts allowed by the law are allowed by the law!

            Guess what: You have as much access to the same pictures as I do.

            Transparently bad argument too. "It's ok if I have access to these photos that I shouldn't have access to, because you also do have access to them."

          • it's true that Google has suffered a significant amount of undeserved public backlash from reactionary elements disconcerted by their unmitigated success and rapid growth as a company. but i don't think the GP is a Google-basher.

            as times change and new technologies that threaten personal privacy come into popular use, the laws need to be updated to protect personal privacy. and everyone being given equal ability to violate each others' privacy is not a solution. just because someone else's privacy is violat

            • It's not just the tech. We had an administration that we somehow elected back the second term, who provided the collossal cultural impetus into the Big Brother Age, easily a decade before natural forces would have gotten us there. Now that it's here, in at least half strength, we get to deal with it.

              Maybe there's a dialectic. Overall the world will favor goodness, but just barely, and it can be thrown off kilter into distractions for a long time. We are nearing the end of one such era. Obama is not a saint,

          • Yep, you found the other problem. It's now easy to frame people, and the Old School institutions will give you hell until it's fixed.

        • "Notice that both of these acts are perfectly legal, and while the second arguably should be regulated and restricted by law (the aggregation, correlation and publication parts, not the picture-taking part), the first one ought not to."

          But you cannot put the privacy genie back in the bottle. All information has this problem. It's like trying to undo piracy and prohibition. Whenever I see a privacy article on slashdot about privacy on the net, I'm usually reminded of David brin's "The transparent society"

        • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Saturday January 10, 2009 @03:33AM (#26396705) Journal

          Let's go back even more innocently. A friend wanted to put some random picture of me on their page. I declined, and they were shocked. It's Do It Yourself Blackmail.

          I like to clown around, but it's in a context. If you were there, drink's on me. But I don't need some random person following the 6 degrees of separation asking me about it 2 years later.

          Part of the big shift that has to happen is social. We joke about it, but the Slashdot Karma rating is a prototype. We need to quit penalizing people for facebook party pics and watch for other measures of worth.

        • by MrCrassic (994046)
          One option to consider if privacy is that important to you is either not putting any personally identifiable information about yourself in the online space (which probably means not having a Facebook, unless you want to make up your name) or staying out of social networks altogether.

          I do know that Facebook "tagging" can be controlled by the user's privacy settings (allow or deny). I don't think Street View can be controlled the same way, though.
        • Facebook allows users to tag photos with the names of the people who appear in them.

          And the people tagged can accept or reject that tagging.
          As well as the owner of the pic wen someone else tags it.

      • Id ask you a different question:

        If you are concerned about your identity, do you think your domain registrar would give it up if somebody claimed that massive spam was coming out of that interface? I know Google wont leak information (look at their newsgroup stance). How about po-dunk registrars with false excuses that scare (like Identity theft, Spam, Botnet and such).

        Google has my information. I havent seen them be evil to me or people I know. I dont trust my registrar, or most other websites asking for

        • Re:Well. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday January 09, 2009 @08:55PM (#26394909) Homepage

          If you are concerned about your identity, do you think your domain registrar would give it up if somebody claimed that massive spam was coming out of that interface?

          Well sure, but that's a bit of a different issue. That's a question of whether companies that you have private transactions can be trusted to keep your information private. My point was that with social networking sites, you're posting information in a public forum and then expecting privacy-- which doesn't make a lot of sense.

      • Lori Drew was convicted of computer fraud for using a false persona on MySpace, which she used to torment Megan Meier leading to Megan's suicide.
        While I doubt your motives are as sinister, how far is that from what she was actually convicted of?
      • Re: Obfuscation (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TaoPhoenix (980487)

        This may be the best common ground. The internet made "leveraging the genius" the thing of the 2nd decade (give the world another year to rest & prepare).

        Now all any organization has to do is locate one of some 10,000 people worldwide with the knack at seeing ultra-patterns. Most of us aren't that interesting to bother with, so a little camoflage to avoid 5 second name searches is usually enough. But what the real point of the Mrs. S. effect is, "if you annoy the collective Net, they'll borrow a pattern

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        See? It'd be trivial to link your profiles together. I just have to find a bunch of profiles with compulsive liars who have blond hair.

  • I Wonder... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ITEric (1392795) on Friday January 09, 2009 @08:18PM (#26394631)

    how many people will be surprised about Google being the champion of privacy?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by exley (221867)

      Yes, they are helping protect privacy by developing software that can... Help undermine privacy.

    • I'd have to be. I posted here a while back about a stolen computer [slashdot.org]. As a result I ended up working with the FBI and local police to recover the systems, so I can now have my real life matched to this account.

      Add to that, from this account you can find plenty of other information about me, but nothing too crazy. Why?

      I know how Google works. I don't get into politics, or anything else that could be questionable to an employer, the FBI, or whoever because it's too easy to link someone to other things.

      Th

      • I don't get into politics, or anything else that could be questionable to an employer, the FBI, or whoever because it's too easy to link someone to other things.

        That's quite frightening in a very subtle way. If I was a foil hatted loon, I might suggest that's exactly what they want.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Google is one of the most frightening potential offender. Its strong reputation stems (partially) from the fact that it didn't abuse its position. Not saying it is sane or anything (don't use gmail!), but it is a fact.
  • you take pains to keep your social site stuff disjoint - I don't care if someone correlates my plaxo/linkedin profiles - both are my real name, but a myspace profile will have no coworkers on it. I can just talk to them, anyway.
    • by tehcyder (746570)

      I don't care if someone correlates my plaxo/linkedin profiles - both are my real name

      Yes but correlation!=causation, so it would prove nothing.

  • Hmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by SlashThat (859697) on Friday January 09, 2009 @08:20PM (#26394651)
    I thought Google would be the ones undermining privacy in this case...
  • just watch what you post online about yourself cuz ultimately it is similar to posting your information on a bulletin board but Globally
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      A few years ago, Many of us got our first MySpace/Facebook/Friendster etc. Shortly after that, we started to contact and be contacted by all of our old, obscure buddies from high school and whatnot. We plastered our psychological profile and unflattering pictures all over the place as much as we could, with our thousands of "friends" and our "pimped" profiles.

      Then we got the E-mail and the phone numbers of the people who we actually gave a shit about, then we realized the folly of our obnoxious seizure-
  • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Friday January 09, 2009 @08:22PM (#26394679) Homepage

    This is a case where multiple pieces of information, that individually do not compromise one's privacy, can actually do so when aggregated and correlated together.

    This sort of pattern is why something like Google Street View subverts the privacy laws that we have. Yes, a photo taken from a public location of things viewable from that location, by itself, does not violate privacy, and privacy law has been developed so that each individual photo that Google takes and publishes does not, on its own, violate anybody's privacy. What the law fails to capture is that putting a vast number of such photos together, correlating them with a geographical information system, yellow page listings, satellite imagery, internet search results, and offering it to the general public to use for free, without any restrictions of purpose, does massively violate privacy. So the standard response to privacy challenges to Street View ("the law allows you to take photos of any public place you want") just massively misses the point.

    • What the law fails to capture is that putting a vast number of such photos together, correlating them with a geographical information system, yellow page listings, satellite imagery, internet search results, and offering it to the general public to use for free, without any restrictions of purpose, does massively violate privacy.

      I don't know-- does it really? I can certainly understand why someone would be upset if they themselves were in one of the photos at a particular place on Google, but I'm not sure I understand why a picture of your house, taken from a public road, constitutes an invasion of privacy. Do you consider the outside of your house to be "private"?

      • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Friday January 09, 2009 @09:29PM (#26395099) Homepage

        I'm not sure I understand why a picture of your house, taken from a public road, constitutes an invasion of privacy.

        But that's the whole point: the picture of your house, taken from a public road, as one isolated token of information, does not posit much risk to your privacy at all. Tons of individual people in our society own cameras, and take photos in public places that depict other people's property, and everybody agrees that the owners of said property should not have a right in general to prevent others from taking such photos. The privacy laws we have are built to protect individuals' rights in that sort of isolated case.

        The problem is when a corporation starts taking such photos systematically, aggregating them all together and correlating them with other systematic data sets. In that situation, a photo that just happens to contain your house is no longer just that; it's a piece of information that can be used to access many other pieces of information that may allow somebody to infer facts about you that you would rather prefer they couldn't.

        Google Street View is only the start. Just wait for the day when digital cameras commonly include GPS units and automatically tag each photo with a precise location and time, which can then be cross-indexed with a geographical information system like Google Maps. I can imagine it already: your wife carelessly forgets to close the window shades one day when they're changing. A neighbor takes a photo of her naked, and posts it to 4chan. Thousands of folks copy the photo all over the web. The photo has GPS information in the EXIF tags. Creepy /b/tards start stalking your wife. You give a resume to a potential employer with your residential address in it; they look up the address in Google Maps, click on the link to show image search results taken nearby, and are treated to a naked picture of your wife.

        That's an example where the photo in question is probably illegal to take, but other examples may be concocted where the picture, by itself, is fine. The point of the example isn't the photo; it's how the technologies that we have today for associating one item of information to others make it too easy for people to find out more about you than they should be able to.

        To sum up, the privacy laws we have today are laws that were designed to protect people's privacy in yesterday's, pre-computer world. Because of this, they primarily address things like whether somebody had the right to take a given individual photo, and not whether somebody is empowering others to infer facts about you by correlating many individually innocuous items of information.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nine-times (778537)

          Ok, but let's just presume for the sake of argument that no one has a picture of your naked wife, and it's just Google with a picture of the outside of your house, latitude and longitude, and address with those pictures. They can also go down the street and see pictures of your neighbors houses in the same way.

          Is that an invasion of privacy, in and of itself? Maybe I am missing the point, but I don't see how having a GPS location and address mapped to a photo of the outside of my house is supposed to sca

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Ok, but let's just presume for the sake of argument that no one has a picture of your naked wife, and it's just Google with a picture of the outside of your house, latitude and longitude, and address with those pictures. They can also go down the street and see pictures of your neighbors houses in the same way. Is that an invasion of privacy, in and of itself?

            I think you're too hung up on this concept of "invasion," which, in my opinion, is too closely linked to existing privacy law. I think the real que

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by CraftyJack (1031736)
            Try it this way: What are the legitimate, non-creepy uses of Google StreetView in a residential neighborhood?
            • Finding where you're going? Isn't that the point of Google Maps in general? Some people navigate based on landmarks.

            • by conureman (748753)

              I don't feel too creepy looking at houses I used to live in, to see how they've aged.

            • by AvitarX (172628)

              When I was purchasing a house that was 40-90 minutes away google street view was a great tool.

              When going to a location, the street view of the store/house front is nice to have.

              When my sister was looking as colleges the street view is a great tool.

              When my grandfather was over, and we "took a walk" through his sisters old neighborhood, he was filled with delight.

              The ability to walk around somewhere without being there is actually fairly useful, it is certainly a lot more useful than the aerial photos (which

        • by russotto (537200)

          The problem is when a corporation starts taking such photos systematically, aggregating them all together and correlating them with other systematic data sets.

          That's the issue with data mining in general, but I still don't see how Google Street View adds any particular risk.

          A neighbor takes a photo of her naked, and posts it to 4chan. Thousands of folks copy the photo all over the web. The photo has GPS information in the EXIF tags. Creepy /b/tards start stalking your wife. You give a resume to a potentia

          • And in this hypothetical case, the risk was caused by a photo with GPS coordinates and a map. Street view was totally unnecessary to compound the privacy violation.

            There were two hypothetical cases there, and this only holds true of one. The 4chan /b/tards started with a GPS-tagged photo, and managed to convert it to a street address (and driving directions). The potential employer started with a street address, and managed to convert it into a photo of a naked inhabitant. In the latter case, the web dat

            • by Auraiken (862386)

              Welcome to the beginnings of the transparent society.

              Careful, it's still a little bumpy as the roads haven't been paved yet. :/

    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday January 09, 2009 @09:52PM (#26395215)

      There's already a website that aggregates this information. http://www.123people.com/ [123people.com]. A friend showed it to me the other day and It's pretty good in what it picks up, since most of them don't even show up on google top 50 together. There were 1 or 2 pieces of information that were off, but these were obvious.

      For people that had more of a web presence it picked up quite a bit more, even photos tagged of them from other people's photobucket and such.

      Obviously the more unique the name, the better the results too.

  • by xmark (177899) on Friday January 09, 2009 @08:26PM (#26394707)

    Just look at any long thread here on Slashdot and you see a pattern of convergence to a disgruntled, socially frightened, and overworked IT/programmer guy named Anonymous Coward.

    On second thought, looks like that applies to most other UIDs here as well. ;-)

    On a more serious level, makes me wonder. If such a tool was used to narrow down a suspect in a crime or malfeasance, would constitutional guarantees against self-incrimination come into play? Could one argue that intentional postings of information pseudo-anonymously are implicitly protected from meta-analytical incrimination?

    Not that I have any thing to, umm, hide, mind you....

    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday January 09, 2009 @09:17PM (#26395029) Homepage

      If such a tool was used to narrow down a suspect in a crime or malfeasance, would constitutional guarantees against self-incrimination come into play?

      No, the right against incriminating yourself basically amounts to "you have the right to remain silent". The police aren't allowed to punish you for not telling them about your crimes. However, anything you do tell them can (and will) be used against you.

      (IANAL, but I'm pretty sure I'm right)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *

        However, anything you do tell them can (and will) be used against you.

        Yes, and only [youtube.com] against you.

        (bug #8332 has been filed).

    • by maxume (22995)

      I would think that postings to public internet sites would be treated much like garbage is treated (i.e., too-bad-so-sad, if you didn't want it known, you shouldn't have put it there).

      The self-incrimination stuff mostly means that you can't be compelled, you are still free to do it if you want to (or else nobody would ever be convicted based on a confession...), so it doesn't really protect you from choices that you have already made.

  • For me... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 09, 2009 @08:47PM (#26394835)

    I don't have a LinkedIn profile. I had a MySpace, but I killed it. My Facebook account does have political rants and opinions, but I don't have any pictures that could prove embarrassing. Google my name, and you'll find political rants I've posted on Yahoo! Groups and similar.

    However, I currently have something that can't hold a candle to being careful on Facebook: an employer that doesn't care what I do off the clock. As long as I stay out of trouble with the law and notify my employer if I'm moonlighting, all they care about is that I show up for work and do my job. Should I get on-call duties in the future, I'll be held to a written SLA, and as long as I can respond to calls within an allotted time, they don't care what I was doing. I can even apply for other jobs without fear.

    I used to be a K-12 teacher--if you ever think you're being spied on off the job, just be glad you're not a teacher.

    - Twice, I was indirectly threatened with termination for looking for other jobs.

    - The local newspaper photographed a teacher with a group of animal-rights protesters when the circus came to town. Parents started complaining to the principal saying they didn't want their children in that teacher's class.

    - Some students found a picture online of a naked woman who closely resembled--but wasn't--a high school teacher. They took the picture to the school's principal, and the teacher wound up having to defend her teacher certification against revocation--fortunately, she won. I'm not even sure if there's a rule against teachers posing naked, as long as it doesn't directly involve students.

    Granted, should I ever find myself looking for a job, a potential future employer might Google me and decide that I'm too liberal (or too something-else) to work there. But the question here is: do I really want to work somewhere they hold employees' personal, legal, off-the-clock lives under a microscope?

    • Re:For me... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 09, 2009 @09:55PM (#26395233)

      I've got a friend who used to be a great teacher. She loved her job and her students, did lots of volunteer work for students and parents, and volunteered to coach sports. The principal slept with a student, admitted it, resigned and was arrested.

      When the police were interviewing students about the principal, one student said he slept with my friend. She was arrested and her mug shot went up all around the world. He later said he was kidding. The police still investigated, as well they should, and dismissed charges.

      Problem is, she can't teach anymore. She's easily googleable and you find her mug shot.

      Ah, the web.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Then she needs to have them "clean" the image off easily found areas. To not do so could be considered libel, and she already can easily show loss of career.

        She just needs a good lawyer, and considering the case, a pro-bono at that. She could draw blood good.

      • by maxume (22995)

        Your problem is with society, not just the web. The web just exacerbates the problems that come from people putting too much weight on accusation, and the witch hunt mentality (and that is setting aside the what-you-do-matters-to-my-afterlife insanity that pervades American culture).

    • by Simulant (528590)

      Google my name...

      http://www.google.com/search?q=anonymous+coward [google.com] Wow, prolific doesn't begin to describe Anonymous Coward.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jeian (409916)

      And yet you're posting as AC. :p

      • by Changa_MC (827317)

        And yet you're posting as AC. :p

        Well, he did say his boss doesn't care what he does outside of work hours.

  • Shout FIRE (Score:5, Funny)

    by retech (1228598) on Friday January 09, 2009 @08:59PM (#26394937)
    Google warning of privacy issues is like an arsonist holding a can of gas and a lit match shouting FIRE in an already burning theater.
  • Some sites like Amazon merge a mini-social site into their main commerce site. By merging who we know with what we purchase, a system could divine quite a lot. It might be able to divine that you are looking for a job, cheating on your spouse, etc. Or it might be able to spoil something innocent like the fact that you are planning a surprise trip to Disney World for the Family.

    My only hope is that there will be ways around this. A popular stance defending this lack of privacy is "if you have nothing to

  • This is a "duh" moment.

    Have they had their head under a rock since 2002?

  • by Toe, The (545098) on Friday January 09, 2009 @09:11PM (#26394995)

    Since the inception of the web, I have been wondering how much longer privacy could last.

    People who have grown up with the web tell everything about themselves freely on sites like MySpace. I don't know if this is because they are just stupid from youth or if it is a different paradigm than the old folks had.

    But in any event it is clear that privacy is diminishing rapidly. Look at cameras. Everyone carries a camera in their pocket now. Anyone can set up a wifi-connected miniature webcam with very little effort or cost. It's not even very difficult to listen through walls (or especially windows) nor to see at least heat traces through walls. And of course, there are satellites watching everything we do at least outside of walls.

    Then think about things like grocery store cards, credit cards, online accounts... And how many people here use a plethora of Google accounts with the blind faith that a mere slogan (Do No Evil) will somehow protect their privacy? Really?

    Then think about how cheap data storage is and how everything is not only logged but archived. It might not be used today, but it can be accessed ten years from now, or twenty, or fifty. After all, computers of a decade from now will be able to eat petabytes like Tic-Tacs.

    Expecting to maintain an old-school sense of privacy is probably not realistic in this, um, brave new world we live in.

    • by martin-boundary (547041) on Friday January 09, 2009 @10:01PM (#26395261)
      Not necessarily. While it is true that once some piece of information is on the internet or on someone's hard drive, then it can be assumed to never go away, and eventually be collated, there is in fact a theoretical way to neutralize the big brother. It's known as spamming, or poisoning the well, or hiding in plain view, and I expect those techniques to actually help privacy in the long run, however crazy that sounds.

      The reason that Google and other companies can mine so much useful information about you is because that information is substantially true. If, for example, the information was 90% useless and totally contradictory, then it would be impossible to reassemble a correct picture about you. If this was common, then people would not usually trust what's written about you or anybody on the web, and you would regain some level of privacy.

      As privacy becomes more of an issue, I fully expect SEO companies and spamming outfits to reposition themselves as privacy protection agencies. There's going to be a lot of money to be made in helping people, and the same bunch of scum who are now crucified for spamming may well be hailed as pioneer heroes in, say, 20 years.

      • by timmarhy (659436)
        it gets better - if you have a very common name it's almost impossible to pin you down. imagine attempting find info on a john smith?
        • by Sporkinum (655143)

          There are too many Agent Smiths.

        • You mean John Tiberius Smith or such.

          You're advocating "security through noise". Doesn't work. That means John Smith will have a tough time *denying* anything ugly that one of the other John Smiths did.

          "Oh, that's not me ... I only have a Google mail and a Kentucky Friends profile... uh... I think I need to watch that James Duane video again."

          Basically we're hosed, and the next 10 years will see us grinding out the implications. Problem is, society moves like molasses, though I think the collective pace has

      • by maxume (22995)

        Wait, I thought that 90% of the information on the web was totally contradictory and useless.

      • by oobi (620065)
        Meh. Datamining is the equivalent of studying corn kernels in my feces, and trying to predict what I will decide to have for lunch tomorrow. Or looking at an fMRI and proclaiming that the oar is bent. I was gonna say something else...but I changed my mind.
  • by Valacosa (863657) on Friday January 09, 2009 @09:35PM (#26395119)
    Wow. I hope my Facebook girlfriend doesn't find out about my MySpace girlfriend.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Your WHO?!?! - Your's Truly, ur /. gf
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by value_added (719364)

      I hope my Facebook girlfriend doesn't find out about my MySpace girlfriend.

      You'll have bigger worries if your wife finds out about either.

    • by badzilla (50355)

      When drinking a toast: "To our wives and sweethearts! (May they never meet)"

  • So Google is writing software to discover cross social network links, to protect us against cross social network links.......uhhh....yea its ok, they're not evil.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No no no, they're data mining data for data-mineable data. I like the way google thinks.
  • bleh (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Fuck privacy!

    "by Anonymous Coward"

  • There is nothing that will stop more and more information from becoming available, and for bots to start correlating and finding their context. Google is doing just what is expected of them within the natural evolutionary path of data organization. Sure, one can regulate google, but nothing will stop others from creating tools that do the same thing. And this is only the beginning.

    There is only one solution. And that is to be able to actively monitor, control and protect information availability. And this m

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TaoPhoenix (980487)

      All. Everyone will have everyone's information. There's no way it can be removed from everywhere. We learned that if you try to nuke the top ten sites, it just floats around the 100 second tier sites you'll never find.

      All we can do is resign ourselves to it and be boring enough not to really be worth the time.

  • Google suggests that posting your personal information on the internet, even across multiple sites can make you susceptible to data mining.
    Ok. No argument there.

    To remedy this, they propose to mine your data, presumably archive it for future reference, and finally politely report back how successful they were?

    Hmm...They've definitely identified a problem.

  • "Google Researchers Warn of Automated Social Info Sharing"

    Ooh that sounds good. I guess it sounds better than "Ad broker leads attention away from automated harvesting of private information, by PR initiative." Or, a child molester who issues warnings about abusive parents.
  • I never use my real name or location, etc for "fun" things. I know a lot of people are backwards and don't think about (or care about) personal freedom outside of work so you gotta do things like that.
  • This is why Batman never blogs.

  • And there I was spending so much time trying to figure out how to create links in Facebook to all of the better social networking sites that I actually use and have meaningful posts on.

    The best I could come up with was a "note" to add links to my LJ, Slashdot, OKCupid (it's more than just a dating site, dammit, or at least it used to be a lot geekier), etc. profiles. Of course, no one visiting my Facebook profile can actually see the note unless they're explicitly looking for it.

    Anyway, I highly recommend

If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts. -- Albert Einstein

Working...