mfioretti: social networks* + big data*

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  1. Il mezzadro digitale non è nient’altro che l’utente di una applicazione online (Twitter, Facebook, Youtube … e, chissà, anche Gyroscope una volta che Anand Sharma avrà implementato il suo modello di business). L’utente è il mezzadro digitale, il servizio online il proprietario del terreno. L’uno ha bisogno dell’altro per coprire le proprie esigenze, si crea una situazione “win-win”, ma forse meglio scrivere “WIN-win” visto che, comunque, chi ha avuto l’idea di creare la piattaforma è sempre quello che riesce a guadagnare notevolmente di più. Può essere che un giorno questo cambierà (la mezzadria è stata vista anche come un momento importante nel passaggio dalla agricoltura tradizionale a quella contemporanea), credo però, che affinché questo accada sia importante offrire strumenti (open data, software libero, interoperabilità, riuso e sostenibilità sono le parole chiave) e stimolare creatività e competizione. Noi, mezzadri digitali, impareremo sempre di più il valore dei nostri dati personali, impareremo a capire quali e quando sono necessari. Esattamente come quando andiamo a votare: quel dato che l’elettore genera, da solo può apparire come qualcosa che conta poco o nulla, ma assieme a quello di altri che la pensano allo stesso modo, diventa sempre più importante e può contribuire a creare cambiamenti importanti.
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  2. When you log in to a service with Facebook, the company exposes an enormous amount of sensitive personal information to the service's operator -- everything from your political views to your relationship status. What's more, logging into a service with Facebook also exposes your contacts' personal information to the service: their locations, political views, organizations, religion, and more.
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  3. In the topsy turvy world we live perhaps it shouldn't come as surprise (although it is a bit shocking, actually) that a social discovery mobile dating app is among the first to come up with a feature to dislocate your location. Yes, you heard me right. A dating app that allows you to see other people that are close to your current location also enables you to cast a different location to others than where you are actually standing. It also lies about where you are to Facebook and other social media, to pesky retailers tracking you in their store and even to quite a few data brokers.
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  4. The truth remains that the more intrusive the site, the better able it is to customise its offer and to attract and retain its audience. Firms do not come up against significant opposition to using this data and it brings economic returns. They therefore have a strong incentive to provide a personalised service in order to increase the attractiveness of their websites.
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  5. Three hops create a data deluge. Like many scientific fields, this level of data collection means that NSA is also going through a shift from a “data poor” environment to a “data rich” environment. In that, they are not alone. Network social scientists who for decades struggled with ways to measure one-degree networks accurately (just your direct contacts) now face themselves looking at datasets of millions of “edges” (or links in the network). Oceanographers can play with 450 million data points around the world’s seas from just one project. Astronomers find that their datasets double each year. And so on.

    Data deluge is a problem even at two hops but an insurmountable one at three hops. Data deluge encourages certain methods and discourages others. And I believe that the ones it encourages are less appropriate to NSA’s mandate—identifying security threats—than the ones it discourages.
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  6. How could it be that so far the network age seems to be a time of endless austerity, jobless recoveries, loss of social mobility, and intense wealth concentration in markets that are anaemic overall?

    The medicine of our time is purported to be open information. The medicine comes in many bottles: open software, free online education, European pirate parties, Wikileaks, social media, and endless variations of the above.

    The principle of making information free seems, at first glance, to spread the power of information out of elite bubbles to benefit everyone.

    Unfortunately, although no one realised it beforehand, the medicine turns out to be poison.

    While the open information ideal feels empowering, it is actually enriching those with the biggest computers to such an extreme that it is gradually weakening democracy.
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  7. Acxiom uses information about the make and year of your car, your income and investments, and your age, education, and zip code to place you into one of 70 different “PersonicX” clusters, which are “summarized indicators of lifestyle, interests and activities.” Did you just finalize a divorce or become an empty nester? Such “life events,” which move people from one consumer class to another, are of key interest to Acxiom and its advertising clients. The company says it can analyze its data to predict 3,000 different propensities, such as how a person may respond to one brand over another.

    Yet these data brokers today are considered somewhat old-fashioned compared with Internet companies like Facebook, which have automated the collection of personal information so it can be done in real time. According to its financial filings at the time of its IPO, Facebook stores around 111 megabytes of photos and videos for each of its users, who now number more than a billion.
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  8. As Facebook prepares to update investors on its performance in the first three months of the year, with analysts forecasting revenues up 36% on last year, studies suggest that its expansion in the US, UK and other major European countries has peaked.
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  9. Anyone who has observed the amazing effectiveness of Bayesian spam filters (see this interesting explanation of how they work; personally I use SpamBayes) cannot but be impressed by the power of mindless number crunching to ferret out meaning. Perhaps a more cautionary example is Facebook, which keeps track of your clicks to rate how interested you are in your various Friends. A developer has written an applet that will let you see the numerical scores Facebook has calculated for how much you stalk each of your Friends (as the site says, “This is really interesting, but may be embarrassing to you”).
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  10. Among the most contentious areas of data protection law in the UK are the dual concepts of anonymisation and pseudonymisation of data.

    Anonymous data is data that is in such a format that it is impossible to establish the identity of any individuals whose details are contained in a database. Pseudonymous data has had personal details removed - such as names replaced with unique ID codes - but still contains sufficiently detailed information for someone to be able to establish the identities of individuals, even if this required combining it with a second database not held by the company in question.

    If data is fully anonymised, it is no longer subject to the Data Protection Act (DPA), because it no longer relates to an identified or identifiable individual. In contrast, pseudonymous data remains personal data because it is capable of being related to an identified or identifiable individual, and thus remains subject to the DPA.
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