Keiran Healy has done a masterful blog post explaining a scholarly paper about metadata utilization. In a nutshell, by looking at sets (for which Keiran uses organization membership – but my readers can extend that) and people as links, calculating weights for links, etc. you can nail who the American Revolution’s key players were.
I’m evolving on this issue. I can obviously be faulted heavily for that, but this is something I am just starting to think seriously about. I’ll divide my thoughts into two basic categories: WTF? and OMG!
- In a world in which most people blithely use Facebook and record most of their network connections there, one has to ask, “WTF? You are posting your location on Foursquare and giving blow by blow updates on every little aspect of your personal life. And you expect privacy now? Weawwy? Weawwy an’ twuwy? Give me an effing break. Dude. You’re an idiot.”
- This methodology is far too easy to use to ever go away. It’s here, wake up and smell the coffee. Deal with it. It’s amenable to fairly simple data collection too. As the Paul Revere example shows, it doesn’t require PRISM. But PRISM and its ilk enhance its abilities like a forest fire compared to a candle.
- There are methods to circumvent it. Subterfuge and secrecy do it. Evolution of politics will favor those who figure this out successfully. Have to think about what else might work.
- It is worth noting that the same methods can be used to analyze the corrupt networks of elites who believe that they will always control invasive technologies like PRISM. That makes them vulnerable – more vulnerable than the masses are because there are far fewer of them.
- I don’t think this technology in the hands of elites is meta-stable. We humans being the baboon-motivation power hungry critters that we are, this will tend to become the tool of oppressive, self-aggrandizing elites who believe that outrageously high Gini coefficients are theirs by right. That will, inevitably, tend to shrink the size of that elite, and with shrinkage they become even more vulnerable. Royalty has seen this repeat over and over with deadly effect to themselves.
- Clearly, Snowden is correct. This is the technology of turnkey tyranny of the future. It can be used to implement dictatorship with an effectiveness that has no historical precedent. Neo-slavery is an obvious possibility.
- Law enforcement/National Security includes not-very-bright people. Fools and tools can create nightmares. It isn’t just NSA. Ask Amanda Knox what it’s like to deal with stupids who won’t listen to sense. Ask yourself what it would be like to be in a situation where you were nailed by some dimwit over who you knew.
- Commercial use of this has to be significant. Is that a problem? Could Zuckerberg leverage his metadata into global dictatorship (Bwahaha?!) It sounds ridiculous on its face, and I doubt the Zuckberg is interested. But others definitely are. There are, in every generation, people interested in domination – it is their reason for existence.
1. I’m not suggesting Amanda is a perfect person. She ain’t. But all I think she’s guilty of is being a silly girl with her head firmly up her ass. It took going to prison to get her to yank her head out.