buddies and business

L'épicerie in Lyon

The more I get into relation detection via communication data, the more services come to my mind. But of course, I don’t invent this wheel for the first time (Pete Warden’s blog brought a lot of evidence to me): In an article two years from now (already!) ZDnet UK has a nice portrait about the emerging business of email analysis. A positive focus is put on Clearwell Systems because of their special (unique?) ranking algorithm (oha! — I bet Google pays very close attention). Its software

weighs the background data and content of each email for several factors, including the name of the sender, names of recipients, how many replies the message generated, who replied, how quickly replies came, how many times it was forwarded, attachments and, of course, keywords.

Well, so do I… But in the light of a fully grown business, ranking emails gets away from a personal (autonomous) assistant that is just nice to have, handy and good for reflection. With the huge amounts of email produced every day and about every topic relevant to any business process, corporate email archives contain pretty any information a manager, and — more delicately — a prosecutor can desire:

Email has come to be viewed as a source of truth. If you want to know what really happened, you look at the email.

As it became clear to me, too, during my research, collecting and archiving (intercepting?) all electronic conversations improves the the basis for statistical analysis and heuristics and hence the quality of the ranking a lot. A lot of entities (Google, security authorities) are after our data, consequentially.

Pete Warden has to receive an honrable mention once more because his position of “trying to generate a useful index with no human intervention” resonates with my basic motivation, too. I find his blog to be imensly interesting and very relevant for my thesis: Like expoiting the time information inherent to email that I thought of using in some kind of “contact profiling”, all the privacy issues entangled, especially in business context, and drawing profit from the knowledge that accumulates often unnoticed in a company (or workgroup). And he complains about the missing Gmail Api, too. All written in a very comprehensive manner.


All your data are belonging to us!

bundestag kameraueberwachung

A proposal for a new law faces a lot of controversy at the moment: The TKÜ (Law for the Surveillance of Telecommunication). Unfortunately, a lot of people are completely unaware and uninformed about the problems at hand — especially if they are not reading a lot of things online. I think, this is very problematic for two main reasons (a lot more can be found easily via the link in the corner of this site): the relation data stored is more sensitve than we might think and our believe that state authorities are good guys is not necessarily true.

Isn’t it all a minor problem as they are just storing the relational data (who with whom when and where) and don’t record e.g. the voice (they do but via another law)? Acutally, content is completely irrelevant: The whole field of Social Network Analysis strives to map entire social networks (you and your friends and their friends…) based on communication (one very good example is MIT’s Reality Mining Project). They can even estimate your general happiness: spending time with their friends usually makes people more content. As the analysis produces very concrete and specific patterns it is suited ideally for a pattern based search for criminals/terrorists. Especially “home grown terrorists” will have very sharp disruptions in their social life. All data sets should not only be stored but scanned carefully for suspicious behaviour if we want to take prevention seriously!

Still no problem because we don’t have to hide anything! We even stopped downloading files from dubious sources, so the copyright industry’s desires behind the law can’t harm us, either. But what if your friend becomes a suspect? Remember that you are linked with pretty much people with only six in between? I’m pretty sure you will find a true terrorist much closer in your “network”. And you can get a lock-in from prosecution authorities yourself, too! Visiting Afghanistan for whatever reason (relatives? NGO project?) is not a good idea, clearly, but probably not very likely for most of us, either. So Guantanamo is away far enough (you could get “extracted“, still) but serves as a first example why naively believing in the good state is a bad idea: While the U.S.A. can still be regareded a democracy and a constitutional state, all you know about that becomes irrelevant once you find yourself in “the camp”. No civil rights as you are outside the U.S. and of course Europe (if you consider yourself a civilian) and no rights from the Geneva Convention(if you consider yourself a soldier). No perspective to get heard by a lawyer, either.
For all Germans, there is a very recent example from at home: A sociologist working for Humboldt University, on cities in particular, got arrested for being part of a “terrorist community” (it’s all about communities…). It’s not that he really did something but that he was providing the “intellectual basis” for others — via his scientific research. Once you are suspected of terrorism you lose a lot of rights, e.g. talking to your attorney privately. It’s the attorney you need to get you out of prison, unfortunately.

While it is certainly necessary to provide security for the people, there are some limits that should be respected in order not to lose our freedom in tight situations.
On Nov, 6th, we can give our concerns a voice!

. . . .

open doors for friends

access scenario - part1

When moving aroud a lot it would be nice to sit down just anywhere, open the laptop and go online instantly. At least in the cities we find often a couple of access points in the neighbourhood but they are usually locked. For good reasons because how do you know what other people will do on the web via your connection?


communication unlimited?

Sensory Circus Backstage

In the context of my mini-exhibition of spam art at the FHP, I had a very inspiring conversation with Christopher and Martin (who study at the FHP as well). It started off from the exhibits themselves and that spam might be the Basis for the Pop-Art of our time as it is more typical than a Coke Bottle.

On the other hand, it is a radical interference with our communication needs and intentions, which should be one of the reasons for the strong emotions (fierce hatred?) towards it. That relation builds the link to my master thesis, which is focused on the organisation of our addressbook according to our communication behaviour.

At the moment, it seems as if we face a heavy communication overlaod: Twitter, Skype, ICQ, Blogs (with shoutboxes and comments), SMS-connectivity, Plazes, Facebook/StudiVZ, messages even via last.fm. Is there a goal everything is converging to, one “integrated commuication application”? How intense and instantaneous do we want our communication to become? Sometimes it looks as if we try to connect our brains. Or at least, we make publicly listenable what we usually would mutter to ourselves at best. Is it all about being afraid of feeling “un-connected” and alone when anyone else is excited about the new possibilities for interpersonal conncections?


trade your personal data—yourself

loome project image

Today, Prof. Dan Smith who is engaged with the development of Service Design at the Glasgow School of Art visited Reto Wettach at the FH Potsdam. The topics of our talk made me have a closer look on Livework in London, a company focused on Service Design.

While this field of design can be considered emergent itself it deals a lot with new technologies and possibilities as well. In a kind of hands-on-research, Livework developed the loome (edit: original page vanished, but some info is left here) service that lets you sell your private data like bank transfer and grocery shopping histories to the highest paying company (one of the involved designers sold a personal record of 800 pages for 150 GBP on ebay as a proof of concept).


Identity 2.0

Identity in digital media, as discussed by Dick Hardt and Kim Cameron.

Dick Hardt proposes in his OSCON 2005 Keynote an identification system for the virtual world modelled after reality: Some authorities issue ID-certificates to the user and she can use these IDs independently for a variety (best: all) of services (e.g. shopping). The service doesn’t have to ensure the integrity of the user by contacting some 3rd party authentification authority with every login (as it is now) and the user has one ID for everything (simple). That’s (very roughly) what he tries to sell with sxip.