Monday, December 13, 2010

Companies using "cloud scores" on people's "reputations" to make all kinds of decisions

Michael Fertik, founder and CEO of “Reputation Defender”, appeared on CNN today with a demonstration of the private facts that an Internet application and found about a CNN journalist  (Poppy Harlow). Much of the information was incorrect. And a professional journalist is likely to see herself as less "private" than the "average person".

Fertik said, however, that more and more decisions are made about people from information collected by “machines”, which, apart from the question of privacy as we usually understand it, also raise the question automated computer processes can “make mistakes”.

Employers and insurance companies are making decisions based on automatically collected information from the “Cloud”, much of which is probably wrong.

The report is in tandem with the recent discussion of “do not track”.

My take is this: It’s fine with me for a Web application to track my information and compute "Cloud scores" to allow companies to send me ads about my own movie (assuming I get started with “Do Ask Do Tell: The Movie” or something like that soon), or about my friend’s upcoming piano concert (yes, it takes a long time to become a good composer). It’s not OK to collect the information to tell a company whether to hire me (in most cases), or whether a health or property insurance company could sell to me, or even someday a landlord could rent to me. It is OK with me to use credit reports in the manner to which we have been long accustomed for those purposes, because, imperfect as it is, the credit industry (by which I was gainfully employed in Dallas in the 1980s – good karma for me) is regulated. I don’t want to see the “amateur” Internet regulated the same way.

Here’s a story by John Sutter, “The Internet and the End if Privacy”, link. Another related headline is "Sacrificing Privacy on the Altar of the Internet".

By the way, today is the ninth anniversary of my “career changing” layoff (Dec 13, 2001), about this exact time of the day.

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