Data Mining


@ #HPDiscover Barcelona uncovered “The Machine”. The Machine has been re-architected bottom-up, which means all this stupid business of using different types of memory in order to optimise speed, yet offer as close as is possible given the limitations of the architecture, the stability of persistent memory, will be a thing of the past. The Machine will have the advantages of fast memory, yet the stability of persistent memory. This is just one technical rework in The Machine, there is loads more. I’m not an expert on hardware, but I understood enough to appreciate the enormity of this innovation.

But what does this mean? What they demoed is how quick it will be to find similar pictures in a big data archive containing millions of pictures. Imagine what this means from crime prevention viewpoint, imagine how this can be used to protect children against sexual predators? Imagine the speed at which biometrics will work, imagine, imagine the possibilities….

On the other side of the coin we can speculate the impact on our personal privacy. The ease and speed of shifting through millions of graphics, data, whatever, means that everything about each one of us will be available to governments, secret agencies, and criminal organisations. This includes everything you share online, your location data, your photos, all pictures of you captured on the millions of surveillance cameras worldwide. With The Machine everything that is public will be instantly available.

So what should you do? Well you need to take control of your identity, your PII (Personal Identifying Information) and your digital footprint. In order to make this possible, how identities are managed today needs to be re-architected bottom-up, exactly as what HP have done with The Machine. Existing identity management architectures are not scalable, and even with federation you are not in control, whatever the supporters of federation may claim.

The only way forward is that you control your identity, hence own your identity, and your digital footprint. You should have absolute traceability on your identity. You control, and encrypt everything you do, every digital interaction if you share is done under your conditions. This is only possible by strengthening your digital identity with the use of reference sources, so that it mirrors how your identity works in the physical world. However just as with The Machine, it is early days, yet the first step is possible…. which means that you have the chance to be one of the first to take control of what belongs to you, your identity and your digital footprint. Check the video below.

Natasha Lomas at TechCrunch talks about how “Systematic Surveillance Will Eat Itself“. She talks about how there is some positives product from this surveillance epidemic. In main it is represented by:

1) whistleblowers, e.g. Edward Snowden; and,

2) the rise in ephemeral type technologies that place information online in a more transitional, temporary state than what is normal today.

My take is more the move towards a ‘transparent’ society, but I am now thinking that maybe this is either the compromise, end-point that we come to, or maybe a stopping house on-route to transparency. The reason why I really do not see a strong place at this ‘half-way house’ is because it is still assuming that governments are lying to its citizens and the rest of the world, and hence the need for whistleblowers (who pay a hefty personal price for their efforts) and hence the need for ephemeral type technologies for the citizen to cover their backs… not cool!

There’s a really fun article written by Daniel Sandström in the Svd Culture section (16 June). SvD is one of the two main Swedish national newspapers. It is in main about the dilemmas we face as 1) a citizen and, 2) consumer. It is about how our selfish choices made in the guise of (2) are in fact contrary to what we demand as (1).

For you non-Swedish speakers – The first paragraph talks about how Amazon dealt with the news that they had illegally allowed an e-book to be on their site. They removed it from all devices. It is quite funny because it was George Orwell’s 1984 😀

He discusses briefly PRISM, this I mention at the end of my previous post. This is an agreement between the main cloud, social networking spaces on logging/tracking. Main companies included are: Google, Facebook, Apple….. yep, all those places you share your personal information, including who is your family, who is your close friends vs. FB friends, maybe who you are drinking, sleeping with… oh my what a gold mine for our governments! And we share this information with pleasure. It really is irrelevant on your privacy settings here because the US government via the Patriot Act can request this personal information about you. He doesn’t mention this last part though.

Daniel talks about the choices he has made, i.e. he purchased a digital reader, after he forgot the ethical implications of what Amazon had done a couple of years ago. He states he placed his personal comfort over his principles.

He then continues to discuss how we as citizens want the cheapest food and share our buying habits for this privilege, but then complain that the government is tracking our communications! He says how we want cheap clothes for our children, but then protest at the atrocities going on in the sweat houses in India, etc., to produce these products. We still continue to purchase cheap clothes

Daniel’s leaving point is potent and true. He says that for himself he needs to think more seriously if he really will live for his comfort, or live as he has learnt, i.e. by principles. Clearly Snowden’s name popped up in this article, as he lived as a citizen and for freedom of the citizen.

What a mess with all these emotions flying around on Ed Snowden and his actions. In the one camp are those proclaiming Snowden as a traitor, and in the other extreme camp, he is a hero, a whistleblower!

The fact that the US are wire-tapping has been known for years, it’s just that the fact has never been made official. In my book Virtual Shadows published quite some time ago in 2009, there is a section just on this

“US wiretapping practices
The US government has led a worldwide effort to limit individual privacy and enhance the capability of its police and intelligence services to eavesdrop on personal conversations. The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) sets out legal requirements for telecommunications providers and equipment manufacturers on the surveillance capabilities that must be built into all telephone systems used in the United States.” (Virtual Shadows, 2009)

Then there is “another program, known as PRISM, has given the NSA access since at least 2007 to emails, video chats and other communications through U.S. Internet companies to spy on foreigners. American emails inevitably were swept up as well.”

There have been some embarrassing exposure before the Snowden escapade, for example “Mathematician William Binney worked for the National Security Agency for four decades, and in the late 1990s he helped design a system to sort through the digital data the agency was sucking up in the exploding universe of bits and bytes. When the agency picked a rival technology, he became disillusioned. He retired a month after the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001, and later went public with his concerns.” As reported by the Los Angeles Times. Blinney called this a “digital dragnet”.

My opinion?
So what’s my take on all this. Well you should know me by now, I am a fervent believer in transparency. I believe that trust can only be built on a foundation of transparency. Clearly although the governments around the world need to ‘protect’ their citizens. But why can’t they just tell them what they are doing? “We are tracking your communications”. We are pulling information from your Facebook profile if a threat to national security is felt. Just as in the EU, data subjects should have a right to know when their personal information is being accessed. They should be informed… period.
This means they continue with their activities, but are transparent in their operations. The fact is most people don’t really seem to care. They most are selling their buying habits today for a free chicken in their shopping trolley 😉

Am I a supporter of Snowden’s actions as whistle-blower. Yes I am!

So this news about an engineer at Google who allegedly got fired for using his high-level access to stalk teenagers…

It’s nothing new to point out the risks with all the massive data mining that Google and others do through their services. It has been done before. What surprises me is that there seems to be such small reactions to when this data is clearly abused. People usually responds to surveilance that they have nothing to hide. Only criminals have somethin to hide. But is this really true? What if someone right now had access to all the emails you ever read, or written, all web pages you have visited, all search queries you’ve ever done, chat trancripts etc.? I have nothing to hide does not equal that I want to show you everything. Google insist that it’s doing good. I would say that that is a necessary tag line for a company that collects all the personal data on everybody they can reach on the internet. The problem is that Google is a company, full of people who might have their own definition of “doing good”.

Interesting developments in Germany. They are passing laws that:
1) restrict data mining (on social networking sites) of potential candidates for jobs; and,
2) privacy in the workplace in favour of the employee

Read more here…