Extract from “My Digital Footprint”, this is from the Chapter 3 “Digital Footprints”

 Who is harnessing your collective intelligence?


Web 2.0 taught us the concept of ‘harnessing collective intelligence’, which will be discussed in greater detail in this section. Harnessing collective intelligence is not a problem in itself. The dark side, however, arises if a business entices its audience (customers, clients, delegates, patients, friends) to give up their digital data, collect their digital footprint without their agreement, charge people to view their own data, or sell OUR data off with the sole expectation of making money though the one-sided route of exploitation. My [Tony Fish] mobile number is widely available on the web, I never get unwanted calls; my home number is ex-directory and only listed on private applications, once a week I receive an unwanted sales call, who sold my data?

On May 1 2009, Spock[vii]  was acquired by Intelius (a background check company). Spock is based on a robot which automatically creates tags for any person it finds. It trawls the web for sites such as Wikipedia, LinkedIn and others. It also allows users to enrich their data by letting them add tags of their own and add other data such as relationships between people. Thus, following the ideas of Web 2.0, the site gets better as more people use it. However, from the user standpoint, it gets tricky because:

· Spock trawls the web looking for our data;

· it creates a profile about us in their site without direct approval;

· it encourages us to enrich that information;

· it charges us to access our own information; and

· ultimately, it sells that same information to a background check company.

This leaves open the question, can I delete my own information in Spock? In many ways it now becomes more interesting. Spock says on deletion of information[viii] :

‘If you'd like to remove yourself from Spock, please read the following information and click the link below. Before requesting removal, please make sure the original source of the information Spock found for you has been removed or made private (MySpace, blog, Friendster, etc). This will prevent you from being re-indexed on the site. Please note that you can only request removal for your Spock search result. When filling out your information please make sure to include your name, e-mail, a link to your Spock Search Result (http://www.spock.com/Tiger-Woods), and the reason why you'd like to be removed. The Spock Support Team will review your claim and get back to you within 24–48 hours.’

The implication is that, as a user, I have to ensure that the original sources of information that they (Spock) sourced (via a spider) the profiles from should also be made private (my blog, my Facebook profile, etc) or they will 'harness' me again. This is the Web 2.0 equivalent of harvesting email addresses and selling them on.

In future, legislation may extend to cover such practices and the idea of empowering the customer will gain more acceptance. As mobile devices become more common, the issue becomes more significant with Mobile Web 2.0. (By Mobile Web 2.0 – I mean the concept of extending the idea of harnessing collective intelligence to mobile devices, which are more attuned to capturing data along with the accompanying Metadata.) But on a more optimistic note, the use of user-generated data to create a better service is a good thing provided there is transparency and the control rests with the user.

Thus, whilst the principles of Web 2.0 were sound, some implementation of the business model may not be, especially is they are FREE. Responsible companies will come to use the principles and create better services (and will use the web and the mobile holistically). These may not be free, hence not 'Web 2.0' in the traditional sense. But they will be more honest in their relationship to their customers and more transparent in their usage of data from their customers. Users may also be wiser and more empowered. We will learn from the mistakes of Web 2.0 and create better engagement and trust based on converged/mobile-driven services.

Privacy - is your privacy someone else's business?

The above discussion raises the question: ‘Is our privacy becoming someone else’s business?’ What I mean by this is; are companies exploiting my private data for their own gains, and the privacy I thought I had, either never existed or has been eroded.

These practices (exploiting data) have attracted the attention of regulatory bodies, such as the Federal Trade Commission in the USA[ix] . It is widely accepted that the populace take the role of media and brands for granted. Marketers will tell you that ‘brands need us and we need them’.

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