Friday, August 5, 2011

Why be nervous about the info companies hold? #InfoStress

A great Tweet from @SheldonW this morning prompted today's blog post:

 Sheldon Witney 
 by MikeSchorah

He said,
 Sheldon Witney No one complained about the phone directory, which afaik gave tel, address, name, etc. Do people just assume it's bad?
 Sheldon Witney I think there are some real reasons, like changing people's behaviour, which isn't always good. But interested to know other peoples reasons
Chris Byrne responded

 Chris Byrne 

I think Chris is  right that there's some scare mongering going on, a drive to sell papers. And I completely agree with Sheldon's reminder about phone books. They still publish name, address and phone number information in a way that's publicly accessible. And you can even get at the info from the web, not just the paper copies.

  • However, you can't mash the phone book together with a map easily: there's something a bit eery about seeing my info on someone else's Google Map, when I didn't put it there.
  • With the phone book, I can opt to be somewhat 'ex-directory.' But in our increasingly interconnected world, it's hard to opt out of online services. Even that choice, to opt out, leads to often negative conclusions being formed.
  • And the phone book online limits the number of queries at any one time to extract data; re-keying that from the paper copy is a non-starter. But online databases give those with access to them a lot of info to crunch quite quickly, and with almost no cost of data acquisition.
  • I think people are spooked at the ways in which supposedly professional organizations have had their systems attacked and their data sources exposed, releasing information that people feel is personal.
  • There's frustration that 'stuff' given up for one purpose can now be re-purposed to results that no one really envisaged at first. For example, in putting my photo on Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites I never imagined that it would then become fodder for facial recognition programs  that can snap me via CCTV or a smart phone app and then work out who I am and other information about me by connecting databases.
  • Perhaps another reason why people are getting suspicious of the use of their data is that they are beginning to realize that Facebook and Google and others have huge stock market valuations and revenues and profits; but it's all based on user data that people have given up for free. There's an economic inequality that gives the profit advantage to others and those of us giving up our data feel a little bit used.
So, those are the reasons I've come up with in response to Sheldon's question. What do you think? Can we get any thoughts going around hashtag #InfoStress?

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