We volunteer more and more information to the Internet, but have you stopped to think about what can be gleaned about you, your lifestyle and family from blog posts, social media sites and friends’ pages?
I came across this site, Personas, earlier this week. It’s an online art “installation” from an exhibit at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. You plug in your name, and it performs some complex, behind-the-scenes calculations using algorithms and data mining techniques to see what it can find out about you on the Internet. Think of it as a vanity Google search on speed.
Here’s what it said it found out about me from the Internet, split into broad categories:
Of course, as the installation notes, it’s meant as a critique of information gathering and data mining.
Personas attempts to demonstrate this process. It does not reveal where its data comes from, nor does it allow you to weight the inputs. The model designer chose how to build the pre-determined categories and underlying statistical techniques to reflect her world view and a priori knowledge. Uncanny insights and inaccuracies are a part of the intended experience, inviting you to reflect on the larger social consequences of an empirically-driven world.
Still, I was curious where it got so much of my information about movies. I’m a big movie fan, but I haven’t written much online about movies. Then I remembered my dormant MySpace page, which I hadn’t logged into in more than two years. That profile had some information on my favorite movies.
With Google bots and spiders and all manner of information trawling, nothing is ever truly gone from the Web. But I decided to close my MySpace account anyway.
Written by Paul Monies