[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Privacy markets

[email protected] wrote:
> Bottom line: Anonymity is the only available tool which puts control
> over my own privacy firmly into my own hands, where it belongs, and
> does so without infringing on anyone's freedom of speech.  Certainly

Some months ago I extended this to the concept of privacy markets - where
individuals will be able to disclose their 'truename value' to providers
of services (such as libraries, publications) whose marketing would benefit,
in lieu of cash. I rather think big business is in a better position than
government to exploit the 'profiling' fallout of universal use of truenames.
In the hope of increasing the declining signal content on the list, I'm 
reposting my article:
Electric Dreams
Weekly column for The Asian Age by Rishab Aiyer Ghosh
#35, 31/October/1994: Selling privacy as a commodity

It was once said that you should never post publicly to
cyberspace what you don't want to see in tomorrow's
newspapers. While newspapers are rarely interested in your
idle thoughts, others are. Future employers, advertisers
and an army of 'user profilers' have begun to exploit the
availability of huge data banks of Net traffic, just
waiting to be indexed by your names and opinions.

It is already possible to buy CD-ROM or tape archives of
posts to newsgroups on the Internet. Collecting newsgroup
posts as they arrive is trivial. Apart from ordinary
Internet connections, all newsgroups are available on one-
way, open-access satellite data broadcasts. As traffic
flows in, it can be indexed and backed up on extremely
cheap storage media such as Digital Audio Tape, for later
search and retrieval.

While the US National Security Agency is naturally one of
the best at hunting for signs of incorrect thinking in
cyberspace, several techniques to search large volumes of
data by very flexible criteria are publicly available.
Electronic writing is one of the best sources for
employers to learn the views of prospective employees. The
groups people participate in can also form useful inputs
to consumer profiles. Some companies have already started
offering directory services based on posts to USENET, the
semi-official collection of major newsgroups. It is easy
to imagine Profiles-R-Us shops that sell dossiers on any
individual, detailing political, religious and sexual
preferences, and other interesting tidbits - all the nasty
things you ever said about Microsoft, for instance!

Public discussion is of course just that, and it's
ridiculous to attempt to prevent it being put to use for
purposes not originally intended. The remedy to an
invasion is to build walls; when the invasion is one of
privacy, the walls are technological. Some pioneers are
already protecting themselves through the use of
encryption, digital signatures, and multiple pseudonyms -
making it impossible for profilers to associate opinions
with real people.

In a way, the Invasion Of The Profilers is a good thing -
it will make individuals realize what little privacy they
have, and teach them the value of privacy. Not everyone
will want to seal themselves in private cocoons. Most will
not object to some loss of privacy, but in exchange for a
(not necessarily monetary) share of the profilers'
profits. Individuals will control their privacy and
selectively reduce it when it benefits themselves.

A particularly useful application of this is in an
electronic public library. Once access to data is severely
restricted to protect intellectual property rights, the
Internet as a source of knowledge for everyone will die,
unless libraries are opened to provide information free of
cost. Such libraries need not survive on subsidies;
rather, they can ask for a copy of any information base in
cyberspace from all publishers. By limiting access to
individuals who are willing to give up some privacy, the
library and publishers will benefit from the sale of
users' access records to advertisers. Advertisers will be
delighted, as most other inputs for profiling in a privacy-
aware society will be unavailable. Finally, users will get
free access to information if they so choose, at a cost
that they can agree to.

While one can be frightened by the ease with which a
multitude of Big Brothers can monitor the citizens of
cyberspace, technology, as always, has something for
everyone. As it becomes easier to search through
electronic communications, it also becomes easier to
protect privacy to varying degrees. Individuals will be
forced to be aware of risks to their privacy. With the
opening of markets for profiles, privacy may finally find
a concrete value.

Rishab Aiyer Ghosh is a freelance technology consultant
and writer. You can reach him through voice mail (+91 11
3760335) or e-mail ([email protected]).
--====(C) Copyright 1994 Rishab Aiyer Ghosh. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED====--
 This article may be redistributed in electronic form only, PROVIDED 
 UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES be redistributed in any non-electronic form,
 or redistributed in any form for compensation of any kind, WITHOUT 
PRIOR WRITTEN PERMISSION from Rishab Aiyer Ghosh ([email protected])

Rishab Aiyer Ghosh                                "In between the breaths is
[email protected]                                  the space where we live"
[email protected]                                        - Lawrence Durrell
Voice/Fax/Data +91 11 6853410  
Voicemail +91 11 3760335                 H 34C Saket, New Delhi 110017, INDIA