Let Us Pull

Of course everybody geeky enough and who cares enough about privacy concerns (related to both government and corporate breaches thereof) has been following the Google story of the feds asking for their logs. I've been in an extended discussion with a friend about that, about Google's ethics, and about what most people do or don't want from or know about or believe about Google and privacy and security.

He just pointed me to a blog that pointed to a story in the Register that reports that 77% of Google users don't know that Google "records personal data."

In this discourse i think a lot depends on the meaning of "personal data." To be fair, the quote above is from the headline, but the actual article, written by the every-snarky but tech-savvy Andrew Orlowski, uses the phrase "Google records and stores information that may identify them" (emphasis mine). Recording an ip address and a history of searches isn't neccesarily going to lead to a person, as in a name, and an address to send the stormtroopers to. you'd need the cooperation of someone's ISP to physically find them; and with dynamic IPs, which is how most people get online, i think, it might be hard for even an ISP to say which of their subscribers did what when.

Bad news for homeland security, better news for google and the datamining industry, who can say 'we don't really have data that's THAT personal.'


How Money Thinks

Since moving into the house where I live now, I've been reading the Wall Street Journal every morning, because my housemate, the MBA student, subscribes. A lot of people on the left have an irrational disrespect and scorn for the journal, but I've known the value of the WSJ ever since, 6 years ago, I started sharing an office with South to the Future, who made it their business to carefully study the style and format of the paper in order to write clever and very believable satires about current and possible developments in society.

The key and the value of reading it is to know that the journal covers everything that is interesting or important to businesspeople. If one remembers that they have that angle then you can learn a lot - plus, they just have very intelligent and varied stories, and they are largely written in a way that doesn't assume stupidity on the part of the reader like most newspapers, sometimes to a fault - the daily news summary column on the center front page often refers to leaders and celebrities only by their last name, with no title or any other explanation. So if you don't know who 'Morales' or 'Mofaz' are, you're sort of out of luck, at least till you turn to the full article inside (if there is one).

It's unfortunate, and telling, that there's no freebie web version of the WSJ. So I can't link to the very interesting article in Saturday's issue about "The Penelopiad," Margaret Atwood's new book that tells the story of Homer's Odyssey from the point of view of Ulysses' wife. (But I can link to other coverage of the same.)

Nor can I link to the fascinating analysis of Europe's slow-growth economy in today's edition, which makes a comparison with the recovering U.S. economy and basically draws the conclusion (and pay attention here, this is important), that the EU economy is not growing as fast because Continental Europeans (unlike brits or yankees) do not like to go into debt, and in fact there are banking rules that make it harder to do so than in the U.S. So, in both places corporations are outsourcing to cheap labor in the 3rd world and hence not raising wages for workers, but in the U.S. workers got around that by simply borrowing more money, mainly via remortgaging their houses, so they could keep going to the mall and buying big-screen TVs and other shit. (Which begs the question, of course, how long can that last?)

Of course the WSJ phrases it a little differently, but it's definitely a source of some interesting information, especially when you keep reminding yourself, "ah, so this is what capitalists want to know about. I wonder what they'll do with this?"

Validation Addiction

About a week ago I read a piece on Rhino Records' site that I found via Philo's blog. The piece is about MySpace and how addictive it is, and its title is "Confessions of a Validation Junkie." The author doesn't go far toward explaining the title explicitly. He mostly just talks about the ridiculous time sink that MySpace is, and proving he's hip and knows lots of current youth slang, he's not about explaining why people do it; but they obviously do it for validation, if not for the slim chance that they'll hook up with their next significant other or favorite band, I guess. (my favorite part of the article is when he mentions the bands that have hundreds of "friends" on myspace, but no one comes to their shows because they're all... on myspace! heh.) It seems people relish keeping score, having an actual numerical measurement of their supposed social worth they can look up any time and work on, relatively risk-free.

Anyway, I have realized that there's another extreme example of validation addiction on Flickr. More and more I've been noticing people who post a photo (or all their photos) to literally dozens of pools. It's insane. Why do they do this? Obviously to get as much notice as possible. Flickr has become an eyeball market of high intensity.

It's weird, because for me, Flickr is just an easy place to upload photos and share them with friends and family, and maybe interact with a few select other people who share some narrowly focused interest that I have. I belong to about 12 groups, like "Indymedia" and "Talking Back to Ads" and "Public Space and Its Discontents." But some people post to more groups than I've ever even looked at, much less joined. And it takes TIME to post to that many groups!

It's remarkable to me that so many people crave the attention of strangers so badly - and for so little. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'd love for every single human on the earth to see my film about Juarez, but I really don't see the worth of posting a photo of your cat, or yet another sunset, to 39 Flickr groups, other than to stroke your own ego.

There are some damaged, needy people out there. Is the Internet helping?

Syndicate content