RE: Semantic web?
We've touched on these issues before, and I discussed them
in the Golem article for the now sadly defunct Markup magazine
that MIT published. The battle for privacy was lost the day
the first Mosaic browser hit the net. The web was fielded witlessly.
1. Most information one might want to declare private becomes
public by multiple means. For example, you may think you
are keeping a home address private but you applied for an
FCC ham license without noticing that the FCC lets ham web sites
have access to that information for their call sign databases.
With that and a handy free web search map, bingo, directions
to your front door. A simple name search is all one needs
even if one has never used the web or gotten an email account.
2. The problem is not simply privacy but aggregation (see 1) and
the illusions of aggregation. If what is said about you and
not what you say is the means by which you are classified
by a search engine, you are the sum of the impressions
others have, right, wrong, indifferent or malicious.
Gossip kills reputations.
3. In many cases, your governments are much more
tightly constrained over the information they collect
and share. Dissemination management policies
are legally instituted in all American states and
probably in Europe as well. There are also purge
statutes on the books that enforce removing information
from these databases after a period of time or under
certain rules (eg, juvenile status). Law enforcement
institutions are constrained as to information they
can share with one another. Yes, 911 resulted in a
loosening of these controls, but failure to coordinate
exposed the public to threat. Can the genie be put
back in the bottle? I doubt it, but by contrast,
the web has none of this.
No rules cuts equally.
The web routes around restraints; even ones that
protect privacy, decency, and ethical use.
The Web is not a democratizing institution in that
it empowers without constraint. The problem is
not what information is collected but the authority
and abilities others have to use it without your
consent and without legal oversight.
Like it or not, the damage to privacy that has most
affected the most people was done by the web
and those who promoted a laissez faire technology
for information publication and aggregation.
They is Us.
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