The future transparency of the past--we live in glass houses

Summary:Google saves every piece of data it comes across, and so do many other companies. The future could reveal our present lives in incredible detail.

Like it or not, there is already a heck of a lot of personal data on you and me, on our online habits, already available through the commercial sector. Are government agencies using subpoenas to get internet analytics data for free?

Because if the government, or any government, wants to be a Big Brother, Will we have Big Brother? Yes, because we can. they would outsource it and buy it in from the commercial sector. You would not believe how many companies out there already slice and dice and serve up that kind of data to anybody with a credit card.

They track internet usage, and bloggers, and what the bloggers write, and who they associate with, etc. It is companies with well known names, such as Technorati, that will sell that information to anyone.

And companies such as Google will comply with all reasonable legal requests for information, as they have done so in the past.

Did you know that Google keeps a copy of every piece of data it ever comes across? That includes every web page (without images), search terms, and usage data such as time of day, IP address, etc. Google's head of engineering told me more than two years ago that all the data gets saved onto onto tapes and is shipped to a storage facility.

What will you do with that data I asked? We don't know was the answer.

I'm sure that Google's data is not personal to a user, but, if you could combine it with other data, such as from third-party cookies, or other databases, it can get personal very easily. You'll be able to triangulate an identifiable user.

Now combine that ever growing store of data at Google, with the masses of location data from cell phone companies, and credit card companies, and health data, etc. And also all the data that corporations are required to save because of Sarbanes-Oxely.

It would be a big mashup of data, but if you had access to it all--it would reveal a person's life in tremendous detail. You would almost be able to follow the daily track of a person through every minute of their day, as they gassed their car, called their spouse, associated with a person that later was put into prison, called a person later revealed to be their lover, what they wrote that day in corporate emails, what they wrote on blogs and with who they linked.

Okay, it would be a massive data mining project--but. . . we will have such capabilities.

Would someone be able to gain access to all the many myriad databases that could map a person's life in such detail?

Maybe. . . maybe sometime in the future someone could piece it all together. The data will certainly be there...sitting around in various places.

Will we have Big Brother? Yes, because we can. Because once we digitize something, we can process it, and we can store it--very easily. We can monitor the inventory in coke machines, and we will monitor everything else soon too.

And if we can track people, we will, because we can. If reasonable technologies exist to prevent crime, terrorism, or any other illegal acts, then we would be negligent in not employing those technologies. That will be the logic of the lawyers and legislators.

Welcome to the future transparency of your present moments.

Topics: Big Data

About

In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to make a living as a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leadi... Full Bio

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