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Privacy, Data Mashup's, and Practical Obscurity

From: Mischa Tuffield <mischa.tuffield@garlik.com>
Date: Wed, 5 Aug 2009 16:17:07 +0100
Message-Id: <33167DD5-2C0C-4696-9601-19F462536E3B@garlik.com>
To: public-xg-socialweb@w3.org
Hello All,

I have long been thinking about how the interweb affects the notion of  
practical obscurity and how one can no longer expect to be forgiven  
for a crime after they have served their sentence.

An example I have used for a while now is the Georgia Sex Offenders  
mashup :


IMHO sites like the above one will just end up creating ghettos of sex  
offenders as real-estate agents start to adopt such online resources  
to help sell properties to future homeowners. Eventually we will see  
neighbourhoods of sex offenders as no family would ever choose to live  
next to a rehabilitated offender. The key word in the previous  
sentence being "rehabilitated", as they have been released by the  
judicial system into the community as reformed human beings.

Now one can install an iPhone App, which tells the phone own about sex  
offenders in their local area, GPS/web magic, note that this only  
works in the US :


I believe that practical obscurity is a dying concept. At this point  
in the post I should stress that I DON'T classify sex offences are  
petty crimes, but I believe that the advent of such data on the web  
will set a president for other forms of crimes to be being posted to  
the public domain. I can easily imagine a future where all crimes  
committed in some US state X are posted to the web.

For example, high-school student Bob gets arrested for shop-lifting  
and gets a minor punishment that could be community service or  
something of a similar vain. Alice a classmate of Bob's finds this so  
funny that she posts it to whatever cool social network she is  
currently a member of, pushing it into the public domain. Now after  
Bob has served his sentence in pre-interweb days this information  
would have been practically obscure, it would have been logged in a  
filing cabinet in some local magistrate court, and unless you had the  
impetus to seek out this information you would probably never have  
found out about it. Alice would have been able to communicate the  
"funny story" to her social network, but those conversation's would  
not have been in the public domain. And now they would be.

Well that is all from me, would love to know if people in the US have  
installed this APP, and wonder how many linch mobs are going to run  
around US cities taking following their trusty iPhone and taking the  
law into their own hands. Here is a link to an article whichoade  
describes some of the vigilantism which occured in the UK after the  
tabloid new paper "The News of the World" published a list of sex  
offenders in the year 2000. Do excuse the fact that I am pointing to a  
document on the "world socialist web site", but it seems to report the  
story well :)


Does anyone else in the group have similar fears/interests or aware of  
any work which touches on practical obscurity and the social web ?


Mischa *has turned this into a blog post : http://bit.ly/sMp4t

Mischa Tuffield
Homepage -http:/mmt.me.uk/
FOAF - http://mmt.me.uk/foaf.rdf#mischa

Received on Wednesday, 5 August 2009 15:17:44 UTC

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