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  1.  (10500.1)
    Bit of a brainspasm here, but I think there might be an interesting thread in it somewhere:

    Ariana posted this link over on G+. How companies learn your secrets. I think most people are probably conscious that this kind of thing goes on and has done for donkeys' years.

    I'm intrigued, in a kind of fuzzy, half-thought-out way, to know if anyone here deliberately tries to pollute the information that's held and gathered about you - in the same way that aluminium 'chaff' is used to confuse radar. I did a cursory search around this and couldn't find much? I'm thinking along the lines of a kind of 'personal spam' that interferes with targeted marketing, but not sure exactly how that would work.

    Is it even possible to render the information collected about you by marketeers worthless - or are the bastards just too clever?

    Would this even be something worth bothering about - do people feel that this kind of thing is more or less benign (I veer between 'not' and 'ambivalent')?
    • CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012
    I got linked to this TED talk about tailored search results yesterday. You're right, it does seem like it's been going on for years, but it really is easy to forget.
    The speaker throws it out at the end that he's probably got Facebook and Google programmers in the audience and that they had better start taking their responsbility as regards "uncomfortable content" seriously.
    (I actually get genuinely pissed off, now that I've made a Youtube ... something [not channel; I just subscribe to two dudes] that's linked in to my gmail address, that I can't log out of Youtube and then go back later without it automatically re-logging me in. I can't seem to delete my Youtube something, even though it'd be much easier and less invasive for me to just bookmark those two dudes's channels.)

    As for that article, I'm probably less annoyed by the product-profiling and more annoyed by the fact that they try to exploit people at their weakest (e.g. in the first anecdote about exhausted new parents). And genuinely laughing about the pregnancy algorithm identifying a 16-year-old girl. Bam.

    As for your actual question! This would probably be a great project for someone to code. Something like an IP proxy, but for accounts. You can set up a half-billion google accounts now, and probably automate that process, and route each action of your browser through a different one. Probably pretty data-heavy, but it could be done. Alternatively, have some little side-browser-routine browsing the web at random in your name. And that "randomness" could be tailored, too. It could even be beneficial just to have dummy searches going off all the time according to what you *like*, not just what you find yourself doing every so often. If your one-recipe-search-a-week isn't enough to get cool food ideas in your feeds, you could dummy-search some of the tags on your favourite websites, just to stay current.

    It's definitely frustrating that certain websites (Youtube, IMDB) have really off-base recommendations based on my infrequent and usually tangential visits. I'd rather have dummy-searches going off for independent creative products that need the attention.
  2.  (10500.3)
    Ha - Chrome crashed my laptop in the middle of posting this, I didn't think it had made it up here.

    @Allana - thanks - have downloaded that talk for later perusal...

    I find the manipulative aspects of this really disturbing as well. I'm not fussed by targeted ads particularly (I quite like that I get ads for guitars everywhere), but the pregnancy example (I don't know - there are versions of that story in the UK too, so not sure if it's apocryphal) is kind of uncomfortable reading. I heard a talk from a loyalty marketing guy where he used an example of someone who'd stopped buying into the cake category, probably on a diet. They bombarded her with offers for cakes, and she cracked after a couple of months. Everyone around me laughed, I felt sick - you can imagine beyond that 'amusing' anecdote to someone's personal struggle, deliberately torpedoed by a bunch of clever algorithms. I don't think they're allowed to do that with, say, alcohol, but doing it with anything potentially unhealthy seems morally reprehensible.

    That sounds like an intriguing coded solution - imagine that would be against the TOS of providers like Google given the value of the information to them and the risks posed by people trying to defeat its capture... It does sometimes feel like a bit of a Faustian deal using google/facebook et al.

    Am also intrigued by strategies to physically defeat loyalty data capture - ie, how can you defeat that whole 'intrusive' marketing that the article talks about? I guess if you were aware, you'd separate purchases that triggered that kind of thing into separate transactions with different payment cards and loyalty cards, or pay with cash. But it would take a great deal of effort and planning, and potentially a knowledge of company structures and data protection legislation to understand which organisations could share and pool your data.

    As the technology evolves they're talking about using image capture and facial recognition to work out your gender and potentially age as you go down an aisle and then deliver targeted offers to you at point of sale - I may have read way too much William Gibson here, but will we see the emergence of urban camouflage clothing (hooded tops with multiple faces on maybe) and people changing their appearance to defeat these systems? In the same way that people obscure their number plates to foil speed cameras?

    At what point do a significant number of people become irked/concerned enough to actively resist these kind of technologies?
    • CommentTimeFeb 17th 2012 edited

    people changing their appearance to defeat these systems? In the same way that people obscure their number plates to foil speed cameras

    How about wearing make-up patterns devised to thwart computer vision/facial recognition

    And on personal-data chaff , I run a couple of infomorphs called weavrs that have their own blogs and twitter accounts but there would be nothing stopping someone using them in a way you suggest. German-based writer Marcus Brown has some interesting ideas regarding digital identity
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeFeb 17th 2012
    Of course, the makeup required to defeat computer facial recognition is pretty distinctive. And easilly recalled by actual human beings, whose observations will stand up in court way ahead of any pretend machine ID machine. And who probably took a photo of you on their mobile.

    So hey, the computer can't tell who it was, but unsurprisingly very few courts actually rely on them for convictions.

    It's possible to go too far along the 'if I defeat the machines I can do what I want!' line of thinking.
    • CommentTimeFeb 17th 2012 edited
    You assume that the only reason someone wouldn't want to be identified is because of the possibility of a court case or criminal conviction...privacy and criminality are not the same thing. In Jon's example, for instance avoiding targeted advertising based on recognising an individual's age and gender as they stroll down a shop's aisles

    Of course if the make-up is too outre you could always carry the CCD-Me-Not umbrella, part of the sentient city survival kit/
    • CommentTimeFeb 18th 2012
    Of course, the makeup required to defeat computer facial recognition is pretty distinctive. And easilly recalled by actual human beings, whose observations will stand up in court way ahead of any pretend machine ID machine.
    But will they remember your face, or your dazzle pattern?
  3.  (10500.8)
    best ways to beat the algorithms? pay cash in person always, give a random phone number/zip code/address if requested, toss coupons. any online browsing you do will generate information, even if you clear your cache and don't accept cookies, so keep it to a minimum or actively search for irrelevant items at the same time to blur the picture. ditch your smart phone. beyond that, they've already made the system so thoroughly integrated into shopping that there really isn't much you can do.
  4.  (10500.9)
    Thanks - interesting stuff - @WORSETHANDETROIT, I think I'd seen that before, but forgotten - thanks.

    @Flabyo - I wasn't thinking specifically about avoiding criminal liability (although that's an interesting strand too), more about resistance to marketing/commercial manipulation. That poses an interesting point though - at the moment, any effort to disguise oneself physically to foil CCTV would most likely be perceived by the majority negatively, I think - 'if you've done nothing wrong you've got nothing to hide'. At some stage though, if physical recognition becomes intrusive or far more commercial, will this change?
    • CommentTimeFeb 18th 2012
    Now I'm imagining suspect lineups being all gussied up in that dazzley makeup.
    As to "be[ing] perceived by the majority negatively," I think that espionage (or the television version of espionage) has been using that tactic for years. You can always pick a subculture costume that'll massively transform your appearance and perceived demeanour, depending on what it is you want to do. Something like dressing as a goth for a decade just so nobody'll know it's you when you finally put on a suit and do some serious corporate screwovers. (But, you know, clever. Actually I think the Occupy kids tried this one.)

    Also, swap your flyer bundles with those of your neighbours at random, if they track coupon codes to specific addresses.
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeFeb 19th 2012
    I think my automatic assumption of it being to 'beat the coppers!' is down to living in the UK. We've been a full on surveillance state for a long time now, I'm used to that being the default of a lot of cultural movements...
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012
    So the future of advertising seems to have started to rear its head already:

    Face-Recognizing Billboard Only Displays Ad To Women

    Moral ambiguity, thy name is advertising. How are we to parse this advertising campaign in London in which an intelligent bus stop billboard only displays its content to women? You read correctly: the billboard has a camera that scans passersby and if one stops to look, it determines their sex and shows them a 40-second video if they are female. Males only get a link to the advertiser’s website.

    Now, does it change things if the advertiser is Plan UK, a non-profit organization trying to raise money toward the education of girls in third-world countries? And they don’t show men because they wanted to give them “a glimpse of what it’s like to have basic choices taken away”? Whether you find this commendable or reprehensible, you have to admit that the technology and implications are more than a little interesting.
    • CommentAuthorroadscum
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012
    Working as an HGV driver, i'm quite used to driving vehicles fitted with GPS tracking. Ok, it does put paid to the two hour 'i was stuck in traffic' layby kip, but it does sometimes have its uses when the lorry breaks down in the middle of nowhere.

    However, it seems not everybody is quite so relaxed about being tracked...
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012
    @Roadscum - I was listening to the radio 4 'PM' show last night and they reported the same story. The use of GPS jamming by truckers is obv a inconvenience, but imagine the sort of wide-scale systems disrupton such blocking could do if it was militarised....(I would imagine such systems are already either in development, or actually deployed around the globe)
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012
    @Worse - The US operated GPS network already has a military kill switch. They can turn the whole thing off, or specific satellites to deny the service in certain areas. It's why the EU are setting up their own network. The UK also run their own military ONLY system, which is called Skynet. Yeah, they went there.
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012
    My main email is a name that is not my own. I get mail for a dude with that name; he's a banker in Dublin.
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012
    @Flabyo - I knew the US had the ability to turn off the network now you mention would be interesting though if someone like China/Iran (or even a hostile non-state player) developed the tactical capactiy to darken GPS over an area - this would render US Drones etc inoperable. I did read that North Korea have a system that they used to target the South's Navy a while back.

    I think we've wandered a little off topic though so perhaps we shouldn't go into too much depth here.

    On topic, luckily(?) for me there is a well-published theology (irony?) professor at Oxford Uni with the exact same name as me so I already have my own google-chaff semi enabled..
  5.  (10500.18)
    My birth name is shared with a Florida Representative, a 1969 Robert Mitchum Western, several sports people, ministers, and at least one country musician. Googling me is pretty difficult, and even background searches with some of my information is pretty hard.
  6.  (10500.19)
    due to this thread i figured i better google myself, which i hadnt done since applying for jobs in 2009.

    am not even on the first page with my real name thanks to the same named star of the documentary MURDERBALL.