I often say that one of my blog post is based on a conversation “with a friend”. When I do that, as often as not that friend is Bojan Soldan. I have had the pleasure of working with Bojan on several projects and can think of no one’s opinion who I respect more in the fields of social media, gaming and design. The great news for those of you who don’t get to talk to him as often as I do is that he’s decided to bring those opinions (and some of his artwork) to the worldwide web in the form of his new blog, blog.BojanSoldan.com. His first technology related posts will be a fantastic seven part series about having a true online identity, and what that might mean for us, the end users. I’ll be cross-posting that first series here over the next couple weeks for your enjoyment, but for the rest of his work you’ll have to visit him at www.BojanSoldan.com.
This is the last part of a seven part series:
Before you continue reading, I’d like to point out that I’m outlining a worst-case scenario in the post below. All I’m trying to do is give people a little bit to think about, and hopefully get them to be a little more aware what they decide to share and post.
I first started thinking about this when an application on Facebook became popular that ran an analysis on your friends. It was a very cool concept and broke down your friend base into statistics, such as gender, age, and called out some of the biggest commonalities such as favorite books, music and movies. Seeing that made me realize how pretty much all the information on Facebook can be consumed via APIs. That means that anyone who can write a popular app, technically has access to all of your information (especially before the recent privacy revamp).
So what happens when a single organization has access to even more of your data? What happens when an organization, who is in possession of browsing data, search data, friend data, and purchasing data, can build such a strong consumer profile of you that they can directly target you with advertisements of exactly the things you want/need? How about when that same organization decides to sell your consumer profile to others who potentially want to target you specifically as their consumer? Both of these are probably not huge issues, as they simply revolve around pushing product, but the concept can be taken further.
Profiling a person as a consumer is very similar as profiling a person for other reasons. It’s not a far stretch of the imagination to be able to identify someone as a potential criminal based on browsing patterns, friends, etc. The information that can be gathered from your social profile is quite astounding, and gives much deeper insight into your life than you might expect, simply by drawing from similarities in other people who like/look for the same things. A handful of reports I’ve seen on Hunch about random topics such as personalities, behavior, and social status of owners of various dog breeds have proven to be quite accurate given a large enough sample size.
It’s going to be vital for the user base of these technologies to be aware of the benefits and pitfalls of having an online identity, and ensure that the proper constructs are in place to prevent being targeted or discriminated against based on the collection of information available about you online.
One of the people I follow recently tweeted “The Internet is our version of omniscience.” That concept rang very true as I was writing these blog posts. We just need to ensure that the information that can be gathered about us isn’t used for the wrong reasons.