What does the internet know about you?

Through my friend Antonia, I discovered the Personas project over at MIT. The creators claim that it is “a critique of data mining, revealing the computer’s uncanny insights and inadvertent errors.” Putting in my name yields lots of results, though less information than a simple Google search. Indeed, it is probably what Google turns up when we enter our names that should concern us most. The MIT project is more about nice visuals than about providing a comprehensive precis on someone, based on publicly accessible information.

Even so, it’s a neat little thing to try out, especially if you have a rare or unique name.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

7 thoughts on “What does the internet know about you?”

  1. I don’t really see the point of this. It’s a bit of a laugh I suppose, and it looks slick. But it doesn’t seem to give over any meaningful information.

  2. It’s an art project, meant to remind people that they are going to be automatically categorized in the future by computers, based on what is online and seems to be related to their name.

    This already happens manually before things like job interviews, but will probably start happening automatically more and more.

  3. An interesting category that is included is ‘illegal’ which parses for certain words in proximity to your name. The idea that anyone with a bit of programming knowledge and a web collection could start scoring people on these kinds of metrics does strike me as significant.

  4. But the data isn’t significant – there are too many people with each name. A search doesn’t reveal anything about you, but rather things about what people with the same name as you are like on average. Which is not much better than picking several people at random and then making generalizations about the group.

  5. This is a crude demonstration. Serious data mining systems will incorporate means of telling people with the same name apart.

  6. If I put in my nickname and last name, everything that it spits out is about me. NEAT.

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