Sunday, May 01, 2005

Political Identity

by ZDNet's Phil Windley

They could decide what causes they support and then sell, of give, information to just those causes. This gives Amazon disproportional political leverage.

“On the heels of the 2004 election, one of the things that candidates want is email addresses. Not just any email addresses, but email addresses of likely voters with particular persuasions in their district. Broken down by precinct, if you please.

The fact that they want them isn’t surprising. The Internet was shown to be a powerful way to connect to voters during the last election cycle and any tech-savvy political operative knows that its only going to be more so in the next.

We could talk about whether we want to start getting political Spam, but that’s not as interesting to me as to think about who has those addresses right now. For example, Amazon, has them, or at least a lot of them. They know your address and they know your email address. What’s more, they could even provide a profile of you based on books you read.

Again, we could talk about whether Amazon should sell this information to anyone, political or not, but what’s more interesting is the possibility that they could selectively sell the information.

I don't think it's just Amazon, in fact it's any bookseller or source for videos, or even online discussion lists. When that laptop at Berkeley was lost with 100,000 social security numbers of grad students, I'll bet it also had what courses they took, and info about their other activities. Schools just love to record things like that.

The real danger isn't that the capability exists, it's the capability plus the inclination to monetize our personal data. It's the lax manner in which our information is secured. It's the fact that once our business leaves our posession, it's everybody's business, except ours. Add the PATRIOT act to this and all bets are off.

Al Ingram
con·cept: Political Identity