Just in case you wanted to have a standard system for bragging to the internets how often you bang, now there’s Bedpost, an online sex tracking tool.
The rest of this post writes itself.
There are two key elements to a profile. Most people tend to focus on the Big Brother data collection side, and that’s simply taking information about a person from different aspects of their private life: their medical records, their financial records, where they go online, what they put in e-mail, who they call — all that kind of information that can be put together to create a detailed profile of an individual.
But the second part — which I don’t think people think about very much but in many respects is becoming more important — is the algorithm that is put on top of that data and the decisions that are made [based on an analysis of the information]. That’s actually an area that EPIC is spending a lot more time on these days, because if you look at such questions as which banner ads an Internet user sees when they visit a Web site, or whether an airline passenger is pulled aside for secondary screening, what’s really happening is a type of profiling that involves not only the data collection, but also some decision-making process that treats one person very differently from another person. That’s also something that turns out to be secretive. Companies will not explain their proprietary algorithms for serving banner ads, nor will the Department of Homeland Security tell us why certain people are pulled aside for secondary screening and not others.
The Supreme Court ruled today that just because businesses have similar names doesn’t mean the huge corporation can force the smaller one to change. Companies must prove actual damages. This means, for example, that Radio Shack cannot sue Bianca’s Smut Shack for using the word “shack.” (Yes, this actually happened, though Bianca eventually prevailed.)