The Internet Knows Me

Ok, I am getting paranoid now. I get suggestions for connections on Linked in that have nothing to do with any 1st, 2nd or 3d grade professional relation, I’m in IT, she owns a beauty parlor. I get offered products in adds that I looked for with Google. I get Twitter account suggestions that are related to my Facebook account. It’s pretty clear the net is closing on me, all knowledge about my life and relations is public and can be used for commercial purposes. The more I share the easier it is to get me to share more, so eventually my life and ambitions will be owned by those that own the online world.

This has notging to do with me allowing cookies to be stored, it has to do with the dogged determination of these databases to store my personal information and try to cash in on whatever buying opportunity they detect. I don’t know who they are, where they work or how they get payed, but apparently it’s enough and apparently there’s no laws against it. 

In Sweden they just passed a law making it illegal to photograph anyone without his/her permission. That sounds draconian, but imagine being followed around while shopping by someone with a notepad "likes crisps","looks at IT magazines","needs new sneakers". Then being approached by a total stranger : "We noticed you need sneakers, would you like me to show you the sneaker megastore, it’s just around the corner!". No! Creep! 

Somewhere in Silicon Valley there’s a meeting going on, topic "Underdifferentiation". "We see a lot of people looking for sneakers, but there are only four popular types, let’s invest in another three and create a more differentiated segment, increasing customer satisfaction and sense of uniqueness". "How do we market?", "We’ll use the sneaker leaders, those we know that want to be exmaples, and we’ll push the new brands with them"."How do you find those people?"."Oh, we know who they are." 

The knowledge is available per adress, per individual person, if they are online. No need to guess, if the will is there it’s likely anything can be sold to anybody though the use of internet based knowledge. 

The total surveillance state is not a problem in itself. If all things where known about me or most people they would still have to work and live their lives each day. But some opportunities all this data gathering creates are just to good to be true for some. Not only the ability to market, but to exclude, to influence, to trap. How many people do  you have to suggest video’s of criminal behaviour to until one of them tries to commit the crime? This person is not eating anough fat (a high carbon margin product), let’s show him some burgers while he surfs the net. Too often away from his keyboard? More exiting and depressing stuff his/her way. Hates Shell? More good stuff on Shell his way. It is the competition necessary to allocate our scarce resources that warps a benign eye in the sky into the eye of Sauron

It is naive to think we can change the level of sharing without permission, or with permission we did not realize we granted. The only option is to cut back on the use of the systems, internet, Linked in Facebook, Google. We need to shrink the level of oversight and enforcement so that we know who knows what, and who will come to get us. Right now the situation is very much the opposite. Stuff is owned by people far away, justifying violent extraction of ‘wealth’ (nearly impossible in our carbon based economy). We don’t even know who’s interests we may endanger, how our behaviour is interpreted. For instance, let’s say the US has a model of terrorist cell interactions, chatter, runs the algorithm on people in Ireland and all alarmbells go off, because Irish men gather in the pub, something that muslims don’t do. Whatever the sytem you set up, it will have false positives. Meanwhile the rest of the law abiding population gets used to being helped in mysterious ways. How long till a taxi pulls up to a restaurant after it analyzed the bill and found that four people drinking four bottles of wine means nobody’s fit to drive? Good, but who benefits?

It would be fine if our world became sentient and benign, but while the energy we use is scarce and based on fossil fuels it can not be that way. The owners of the fossil fuel reserves will have to choose who gets to use it, based on some quality, the most interesting one being profit, because profit leads to money not being spend (after all, you don’t need profit). Money not spend means fossil energy conserved. That is why the free ‘carbon based’ economy tells us to go after profits! But the competition causes a desire to exclude, not care, cut off, repuspose, recycle. 

The free market is now international, hard to pin down. It is better informed than the local governements. It wants us using fossil fuels, not renewables, and wants us to be good consumers in the process. Not all of us though. Maybe not you.  

The solution : We need Hypertransparency

Read Al Gores piece on the NSA eavesdropping on millions of citizen

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