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Blonde on Blonde

The inside scoop on the outside story. Write to Blonde at blonde@radsoft.net.

Tuesday 21 January 2003

I saw a lawyer on a TV show talking about data mining the US government has been doing. They went so far as to get a grocery store to turn over their database and not tell anyone they had taken the data.

They were looking for folks who bought humus!

This is one reason I never take those little cards they want you to take. 'In order to serve you better... we'll give you a (small) discount on the product of the week if you just sign up...'

There are way too many folks keeping databases on everything we do 'in order to serve you better'. Bah! They just want to see what most folks are buying in order to make sure the stocks are always full up, and so they can direct you to further purchases - 'people who bought this item also bought...' - the prime example being Amazon - 'people who bought Harry Potter also bought Worry Dolls'.

Now more than ever we need to resist the urge to save a really tiny amount of money by giving up information about ourselves and our interests. This sort of data mining began on the Web as soon as the brick and mortar companies realized they could get folks to fill out questionnaires. Some of the less reputable companies sold the data, and a lot of companies with what appeared to be a fair policy of not taking any personal info found themselves 'acquired', with the new owners selling the data to the highest bidder.

Now enter Microsoft and .NET and all their TV ads about how the power of their software 'fills your order, updates your *information* and the store's inventory' (keeping a UID specific only to you and your computer).

I'm just not comfortable handing over any info, let alone stuff that would ID me and make me a target of every phone scammer, in addition to the legit folks who make 'cold calls' attempting to get me to buy something I've perhaps looked at on the web, checked prices etc.

Here are some links.

DARPA TIA website
More information on TIA
Congressional letters on TIA
EFF action alert opposing TIA
Letter from organizations opposing TIA
Center for Public Integrity analysis of TIA
Legislation introduced for TIA data-mining moratorium

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