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Interesting

Google???s "troubling dominance"

Former FTC Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour, now corporate lawyer for Microsoft (among other clients), wrote this op-ed that appeared in yesterday???s New York Times:

Google is not just a ???search engine company,??? or an ???online services company,??? or a publisher, or an advertising platform. At its core, it???s a data collection company.

Its ???market??? is data by, from and about consumers ??? you, that is. And in that realm, its role is so dominant as to be overwhelming, and scary. Data is the engine of online markets and has become, indeed, a new asset class.

[…]

I???ve been concerned about Google???s dominant role in data collection ??? and the profound privacy concerns it raises ??? since my time at the F.T.C. When the commission approved Google???s 2007 acquisition of DoubleClick, I dissented ??? because I was concerned that combining the two companies??? vast troves of consumer information would allow Google, which was largely unchecked by competition, to develop invasive profiles of individuals??? Internet habits.

How dominant is Google?

Thin walls and traffic cameras

In the timeline of human history, privacy is relatively recent. It may even be that privacy was an anomaly, that our social natures rely on leakage to thrive, and that we’re nearing the end of a transient time where the walls between us gave us the illusion of secrecy.

But now that technology is tearing down those walls, we need checks and balances to ensure that we don’t let predictions become prejudices. Even when those predictions are based in fact, we must build both context and mercy into the data-driven decisions that govern our quantified future.

David Weinberger: “Leeway is the only way we manage to live together: We ignore what isn’t our business. We cut one another some slack. We forgive one another when we transgress. By bending the rules we’re not violating fairness. The equal and blind application of rules is a bureaucracy’s idea of fairness. Judiciously granting leeway is what fairness is all about. Fairness comes in dealing with the exceptions. [–––] Matters are different in the digital world. Bits are all edges. Nothing is continuous. Everything is precise. Bits are uniform so no exceptions are required, no leeway is permitted. Which brings us to “digital rights management” […]” (Via Ed Felten.)

A very rational take on the fact that, prediction is not an invasion of privacy. And not necessarily a bad thing. That perhaps our “privacy” was a transient anomaly on the path to big data.

It doesn’t spare us though from the need to provide human slack in all things.

Mobile Advertising: The $20B Opportunity Mirage

We get closer to the heart of the matter when we look at a common thought pattern, an age-old and dangerously misleading algorithm:

The [new thing] is like the [old thing] only [smaller | bigger]

We’ve seen this formula, and its abuse, before. Decades ago, incumbents had to finally admit that minicomputers weren’t simply small mainframes. Manufacturers, vendors, software makers had to adapt to the constraints and benefits of a new, different environment. A semi-generation later, we saw it again: Microcomputers weren’t diminutive minicomputers but truly personal machines that consumers could lift with their arms, minds, and credit cards.

And nothing is more personal than the handset. We might have, in an era when “receive only” was the available option, accepted commercials on transistor radios, but we never did with the Walkman.

There is a continuum from cinema to the handset, along a number of dimensions, that suggests the conclusion of this article is correct.

Kids Online: the Risks and the Realities

KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RISK AND HARM. It might seem like just a semantic distinction, but recognizing the difference between risk and harm is important. Livingston contends that while the risk is real when it comes to being exposed to inappropriate material online, the probability of harm is low. ???The risk remains but the parents??? task is not to eliminate risk but do everything they can to make sure the low probability harm doesn???t happen to their child,??? she says. ???Children have to encounter risks because it???s how they live and learn. It???s how they go out into the world and become resilient.

Schneier on Security: Teenagers and Privacy

Rather than fearing the unknown stranger, young adults are more wary of the “known other” — parents, school teachers, classmates, etc. — for fear of “the potential for the known others to share embarrassing information about them”; 83 percent of the sample group cited at least one known other they wanted to maintain their privacy from; 71 percent cited at least one known adult. Strikingly, seven out of the 10 participants who reported an incident when their privacy was breached said it was “perpetrated by known others.

The kids are alright.

How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did

What Target discovered fairly quickly is that it creeped people out that the company knew about their pregnancies in advance.

“If we send someone a catalog and say, ‘Congratulations on your first child!’ and they’ve never told us they’re pregnant, that’s going to make some people uncomfortable,” Pole told me. “We are very conservative about compliance with all privacy laws. But even if you’re following the law, you can do things where people get queasy.

Bold is mine. That’s a quote for our times.