Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Coming End of Anonymity, Part Deux

by Ken Houghton

First, there was Duncan Black. Now, the legendary bitchPhD is soon to be revealed.

The curious thing is that, in both cases, anyone who honestly wanted to know would have had little trouble figuring out the person behind the blogspot. (Full disclosure: I don't know who bitchphd is, and didn't care all that much about Duncan Black going public, except to notice that it made Kathryn Cramer happy at the time.)

UPDATE: Apparently, ******* **** of an ill-named blog (he plugs himself in the
comments section) has "outted" an "anonymous left-blogger." Those who are
curious can see the gory details at the newly-redesigned
Sadly No!
; those who are curious about Mr. ****'s senses are referred
specifically to this comment,
which summarizes why this post ends the way it does.

This all comes to the fore mainly when I start thinking about datamining, which, for some reason or ANOTHER, comes to mind a lot these days.

The first rule of data mining is that you try to avoid "mission creep." As with "scope creep," tangents can be fatal. At the very least, they are distracting. And that means that the question has to be clearly defined and restricted. The difference between "data collection" and "data mining" is the difference between Schliemann and Troy and the sequencing of chromosomes in the Human Genome Project.

And that means that data mining is a very specialized profession, one that should not be managed by Donald "My goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?" Rumsfeld and his crew. Also, that the successes of the illegal, unconstitutional project are so minimal despite its having gone on since late 2001 (Times Select ref via The Booman Tribune via Larry Johnson's blog) that the only things they can mention are apocrypha such as blowtorching the Brooklyn Bridge or shoe-bombing a plane so that it crashes into a high-rise

That said, Charles Platt has maintained for years (sorry, no link; the comments are that old) that "privacy" is an outmoded concept. More accurately, as the cost of data collection and data mining goes down, it becomes easier to have the option to ensure that people are not private.

But the option still needs to be exercised. There is not "no cost" involved.

In a Knowledge Economy, the definition of "need to know" is likely to become increasingly driven by considerations of time and effort. The bugging of James Rubin's telephone line probably resulted in some preparational advantages to the incumbent in 2004. (It certainly makes "the outburst" seem less spontaneous.) As Jean Rohe said, "I'm curious to see which doors have been permanently closed to me in the future, simply because I've spoken up."

I grew up in a democracy. My daughters may never have that opportunity, no matter what I may hope.
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