Internet technology is becoming an important part of everyone’s life. I hardly know anyone, young or old, that doesn’t have a Facebook profile. If this is an indication of anything it’s that the world is moving towards a dual citizenship; one life is lived in the physical, the other in the virtual. This metaphor is too simplistic and divisive because your virtual life will become more and more like your physical life.
The virtual mirroring the physical the key to what I call a comprehensive profile (CP). As these online systems get focused on mirroring and helping manage physical life, they will be better at profiling who you are (i.e. you’re logging your relationships, your intentions, your purchases etc.). I’ve mentioned this sort of idea in the past. As we get more information into these systems we will have a better idea about large scale and individual human behavior. However, as my friends like to point out, not all technology is used for good.
There have been instances when services like Facebook, Google, Zynga, you have it, have violated some sense of privacy. In a sense, they are violating your privacy right now. When you clicked on this link via Facebook or Twitter, the re-route is sent back to their servers and logged. They now know that you’ve visited my page. How can this lead to something bigger? What would you say if one of these services had every website that you’ve viewed in the last month? The last year? The last 5 years? That may not seem like a big deal but the reality of the matter is that they don’t just have your websites. They have location information (pre-Facebook places et. al ), shopping information, interaction information. Sure, it’s not aggregated in one place, but I think that it wouldn’t be too hard to that.
If this were to happen, this would be a comprehensive profile. What concerns me is that this might be so powerful as to create something called an CP Fingerprint. A CPF is a pattern that arises from all the different information logged by you. That is, my CPF ≠ your CPF. I’m not sure if this sort of thing exists but something tells me that Ad Networks sure as hell wish it did. Finding that CPFs are real would be the holy grail of Advertising. Ads would be super targeted.
I’m of the opinion that super targeting might be helpful to us. They might make our lives much more pleasurable. Especially if it were integrated with real-time location information. CPFs would help networks aggregate more information from us. Imagine that computers could play 20 Questions and find you. What do I mean? Let’s imagine that you are an active member of the interwebs and have been for the past 5 years. The amount of information you have created is immense. Let’s also suppose that CPFs are real. What would happen if you decided that you wanted to start anew? You get a new computer, you leave your spouse and kids, you leave your job, you change internet provider and you create new service accounts under a new name. A clean slate.
Or so you think. What if these computers check new users or accounts and track them in search of a pattern. In this case, the system will have more than 20 questions. It may have thousands upon thousands of data points at week. What if it could compare profile trends to its past and current profiles?
I’m not sure if there are technical or theoretical ideas that reject the possibility of CPF’s existing. I can think about some difficulties but I think they are being resolved due to new mobile devices. If a whole family is using a computer it might be hard to create a CPF. It would be a family CPF. However, as more amore people are gravitation towards login services and mobile devices, this problem begins to disappear. Something tells me that they are or will be possible to construct and that these data companies are trying to create them. This could be holy grail in terms of information technology. Just as we like to think we are individuals in the physical world, we are individuals on the web. Just as we can leave fingerprints in the physical, we may be leaving virtual fingerprints.