Every so often I use this site to promote something – well, something besides the book, of course. This is one of those times, so bear with me. FM is hiring. If you’re interested or know someone who might be, here’s the info….
Now, look. I’ve been to a lot of CES’s. I’m not there this time, but…. this is a big deal. You have three major CEOs/Founders – Gates, Semel, Page – duking it out to be the most spectacular, most important, most talked about (oh, and yeah, Dell, Otellini, Stringer…). Really cool.
So Gates started today. Semel is later in the week. Then Page Friday. All will make announcements, I am sure. Gates already did. All about search and entertainment. Scoble’s notes are here.
From the post:
Vast deposits of personal information sit in databases across the internet. Terms used in phone conversations have become the grounds for federal investigation. Reputable organizations like the Catholic Worker, Greenpeace, and the Vegan Community Project, have come under scrutiny by FBI “counterterrorism” agents.
“Data mining” of all that information and communication is at the heart of the furor over the recent disclosure of government snooping. “U.S. President George W. Bush and his aides have said his executive order allowing eavesdropping without warrants was limited to monitoring international phone and e-mail communications linked to people with connections to al-Qaeda. What has not been acknowledged, according to the Times, is that NSA technicians combed large amounts of phone and Internet traffic seeking patterns pointing to terrorism suspects.
“Some officials described the program as a large data mining operation, the Times said, and described it as much larger than the White House has acknowledged.” (Reuters)
Combining a data mining operation with the Patriot Act’s power to access information makes it all too easy for the federal government to violate the Constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable search.
It used to be you had to get a warrant to monitor a person or a group of people. Today, it is increasingly easy to monitor ideas. And then track them back to people. Most of us don’t have access to the databases, software, or computing power of the NSA, FBI, and other government agencies. But an individual with access to the internet can still develop a fairly sophisticated profile of hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens using free and publicly available resources. Here’s an example.
There are many websites and databases that could be used for this project, but few things tell you as much about a person as the books he chooses to read. Isn’t that why the Patriot Act specifically requires libraries to release information on who’s reading what? For this reason, I chose to focus on the information contained in the popular Amazon wishlists.
Amazon wishlists lets anyone bookmark books for later purchase. By default these lists are public and available to anybody who searches by name. If the wishlist creator specifies a shipping address, someone else can even purchase the book on Amazon and have it shipped directly as a gift. The wishlist creator’s city and state are made public on the wishlist, but the street address remains private. Amazon’s popularity has created a vast database of wishlists. No index of all wishlists is available, but it remains possible to view all wishlists by people of a particular first name. A recent search for people named Mark returned 124,887 publicly viewable wishlists.
For an all inclusive search by name, you could compile a comprehensive list of first names and nicknames from the baby names databases available on the internet. Armed with this list, and by recording the search results for each first name, it is possible for you to retrieve the vast majority of public wishlists on Amazon.
For the purposes of this exercise, only a single name was chosen – a common male name that returned over 260,000 wishlists. I’m not going to divulge what name was actually used. Let’s pretend it was “Edgar,” in honor of former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.
It goes on from there. Hmmmmmm….
Make sure you scroll down for the Google Maps API mashup of readers of 1984.
So Larry Page is giving a keynote at CES this Friday, which is what got the whole Google Cube/PC thing fibrillating, but Om thinks what he’s going to launch is some kind of Google Video enhancement/deal.
From Reuters. I have no doubt they are considering it. But I’m not so sure it will happen. Remember, they recently got divorced with regard to ad systems (MSFT used to use Yahoo’s Overture service), and it’s not clear what MSFT brings to Yahoo’s party that the company does not already have. Thoughts?
PODZINGER takes search a step further by searching the spoken words inside the podcast in order to find more specific and relevant results. The text-based search results include snippets from the audio to help you figure out if the result is relevant. You can even click on the words to listen to the audio from that point.
Many readers have asked me – “Hey John, why so silent on the rumors that Google might 1/create a parallel Internet using portable containers and massive bandwidth (see Cringely here) and 2/connect them to cheap and powerful “Google Cubes” that do everything we wish Apple, Dell, and Tivo would do but for some reason are not?” (see more Cringely, Cnet, and the LA Times).
The simple reason: I find both hard to buy. Really hard to buy. Why? Well, it’s not like Apple, Dell, and tons of others don’t want to make the same thing (the cube, anyway), and it’s not like they haven’t thought it through. I know, I know, plenty of folks were playing in search when Google came along….so… I’ll keep watching, and thinking, but….well, it feels a bit like our the Google Rorschach effect at work….for now.
Update: Google has denied the PC angle, in any case.