Online profiling and artificial intelligence

With search engines and advertisers actively building client profiles it’s important to ask, why do you search? If websites like Google can profile your search terms and build a picture of who you are, you have to wonder about the generic but endlessly complex user profiles that they model their systems with.

Understanding a customer is important to any business and I for one am itching to look inside Google’s profiling tools. With so many unique users often not even requiring a log in to isolate them Google have some of the most detailed snapshots of user interaction available.

Collecting user interactions with the Internet is a process that can be simply and effectively automated. Making sense of them can also be automated into detailed artificial intelligence and spending profiles.

Having a resource like Google, Twitter and Facebook to data mine offers the chance to divide up the Internet’s population into distinct personality and behavior types. Knowing your friends is one thing but being able to define a user as a distinct type and to automate and update these profiles and their user groups would theoretically allow these Internet giants to play matchmaker with some very divisive communities.

Everyone assumes that the Internet is a world of cyber states, crypto anarchy and pirate utopias and it is. It relies on users to police the communities that operate in it. But for the most part we don’t see these worlds because we are being protected as best we can in corporate walled gardens.

We often talk about people finding and building their communities on-line but the real joy and fear is in joining up disparate groups that don’t have the chance to air their views in public. I know there are places on the Internet I fear to tread because of the kinds of services and users that could be found there.

The security of a consensus reality can define all kinds of positivity and negativity and it can overwhelm our digital communities. Has anyone ever considered the real power of social networks is not in keeping us together but in keeping us apart.

While we all want to find people that share our skills, interests and hobbies what would a real networked economy look like? If criminals were given a chance to pick their target audience with the kinds of efficiency achievable by the big three I can only expect anarchy.

Technologies like twitter give the illusion of freedom but are swamped by the noise of the crowd. We still cling to friends and established celebrities and brands. I would be very suspicious of a social network offering targeted advertising without some checks and balances of intent.

Facilitating crime is not in the corporate interests of the big three but I do begin to wonder what sort of horrors would be unleashed if those wanting to avoid the corporate steel and walled garden could build the kind of networks they really desire.

The freedom to communicate comes with a responsibility for our intentions. Some people are merely waiting for the chance to know their peers with some level of security. Protecting the datasets at the big three is vitally important to prevent something far worse than spam.

I guess I’m in a rather pessimistic frame of mind. And I need my faith in the Internet restored. How seriously do local and national police take to policing it. What would government surveillance really mean. If we are not willing to accept government control of the Internet then are we willing to police it ourselves?

Are you willing to explore the darker side of the net to help rid it of its ills? Choosing to look away means that you are willing to ignore what happens not only on the network but in our communities. Are we ready as a society to begin investigating and reporting crime when we see it. Or are we living in fear of implicating ourselves and those that would perpetuate it?

The terms cyber states, crypto anarchy and pirate utopias sum up my worst fears about the Internet as it stands today. Our only hope is in the inability of malicious people to build effective and rapid networks that tie these three concepts together.