There you go, happily wandering around the internet and the social networks. A Twitter conversation here. A Foursquare check-in there. Maybe a quick cruise up and down your Facebook feed dropping a few 'likes', and uploading a cool snap from your weekend trip to winery or petting zoo or ballpark. It's fun, it's social, and in 2013 for many of us, updating, connecting, and participating in social networking and contributing to the colossal Big Data set that is the social graph is an essential part of our lives.
Sure, every so often we get a little tired of it all, maybe we take a Facebook vacation, or go on a little Twitter hiatus. We forget to update our LinkedIn profile for a while, (at least until we decide we need a new job), or decide 'checking-in' every time you get a coffee on the way to work is kind of silly. But eventually we come back. Too much of our lives, personal for sure, and increasingly professional, are wound up in the social web.
That essential nature of social networking that not only compels us to Instagram our pancakes before digging in or fighting over meaningless 'Mayorships' at your kid's preschool also leads to a kind of softening in our views of privacy and security. Through a combination of often confusing and shifting privacy policies, and a pessimistic, (probably realistic), rationalization that no matter what 'privacy' settings or controls one chooses, that their data, once submitted to the great big social graph in the cloud, will eventually become if not public, at least privy to people and programs for which it was never intended.
We sort of get it, we get the tradeoff, we (mostly) accept it as a 'cost of doing business' where the value we derive, (fun, connections, business opportunities), is greater than or at least equal to the darker side of social - loss of privacy, more and more ads, the occasional backlash in the form of 'If your not the customer, you're the product' bitterness. Ok, that last one is mostly my pet peeve.
But despite all that, and our real understanding that nothing on the internet is ever truly private, it is enlightening to catch a glimpse, a snippet, of just what is happening with all that social exhaust we leave as we traverse the social networks and live our lives online.
The UK's Guardian site managed to get a hold of a pretty amazing video created in 2010 by the defense and security firm Raytheon, that features a short product demonstration of a tool called RIOT (Rapid Information Overlay Technology). The Raytheon system was designed to exhibit just how simple and powerful social network data can be for the purposes of identification, tracking, and predicting one's movements. Take a look at the video below, (RSS and email subscribers please click through)
Pretty incredible, right? And remember this video of RIOT is from 2010. No doubt development has continued on RIOT, and no doubt that Raytheon was or is not the only company interested in this sort of thing.
But a great reminder nonetheless.
We KNOW the data that we publish, push, and post on social media is never private.
But we don't usually get to SEE a reminder of what that actually means.
What's your take? Creeped out by RIOT? Or simply do you chalk it up as the way the world works today?
Aside - Did you notice the Raytheon demo guy from the video looks just like comedian Louis C.K.? Weird.