Friday, July 20, 2007

Privacy and Reputation Management: An update

I was reflecting today on what I've learned over the past year about the state of the art in data mining, data rights, trading in data rights. What I see now, and what I think is coming, suggests this is a good time to summarize the themes of privacy and reputation management (including identity management) together, with a bow, as always, to David Brin.

It's not hard to drive to the bottom line. You should live your life as if you have no secrets. Assume that anything you write, say, do will one day be visible. Assume that every aspect of your medical history, your employment history and the time you yelled at the kids is public.

No, we're not quite there yet. You can still assume multiple digital identities, manage them carefully, and be one small step away from Google. If you don't have a credit card or a phone or a license you can still be surprisingly hard to find, and you can probably live. The trend is clear though, barring a dramatic awakening of our stunned citizenry we will be there within 5-10 years. When we get there there will be a large retrospective effect, so that transparency will propagate backwards in time. What you can conceal now will become public then.

That's why, today, you must assume you live in the proverbial fishbowl. Live accordingly.

Ah, you don't want to live that way? Well, you might try taking a cattle prod to your fellow voters. Personally I don't hold out much hope however, I think we might as well get used to the idea that this battle was lost ten years ago, and focus instead on making identity theft a serious crime with penalties for the corporations that own and manage our identities.

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