10 Feb 2006 mirwin   » (Master)


openprivacy.org has a white paper that states they are using going to build test demos of their system showing how advogato and slash/dot's reputation systems can be duplicated and then correlated or computationally transferred between the two. They seem to think that establishing and managing a bunch of pseudonyms is the key to restoring personal control over private information while allowing society enough access for effective data mining.

I will have to look the site over a bit more but my initial opinion or bias is that they are in a dead end. To be truly useful and precise the data miners must pierce the obfuscation. It seems to me that, if it is effective, pseudonyms is more a method of dropping out of the information age rather than regaining privacy or control of personal reputation tracking. Consider a pharmaceutical product that creates specific side effects. In the U.S. nobody outside the medical industry that stands to get sued when a problem is detected has access to the "personal" or "private" information that patients are experiencing side effects. Ultimately anonymous data is subject to charges of fraud or incorrect data collection techniques and ignored by courts. Whereas, a few tens or hundreds of people banding together to come forward with specific information regarding specific side effects can launch class action lawsuits for hundreds of millions or billions in damages.

Yet a few hundred commoners probably do not have the resources to pierce the veil of pseudonyms proposed while I suspect any government agency or corporate behometh willing to spend a few million could probably gather the resources necessary to easily circumvent it ... i.e. some of the same developers creating the pseudo privacy.

Still it extremely interesting to me if it leads to any useful advances in reputation management systems. It seems to me that such mechanisms might be usefully combined with access mechanisms to manage detailed information over public grids. The mechanisms need not be incredibly robust. After all, a lock or front door in the physical world only keeps honest people honest and provides evidence of forced or illegal entry sufficient for prosecution purposes.

Perhaps an electronic keep out sign or mechanisms could be developed in browsers placing the onus of cookie and spyware management back where it belongs ... on the electronic or computer wizards wishing to collect information entered or stored on peoples desktops or portables. Unfortunately a development such as this would probably require some aggregate common sense from Congress. Exceedingly rare these days.</a>

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