What does the internet know about you?


in Geek stuff, Internet matters, Security

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.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan October 9, 2009 at 6:43 pm

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.

Milan October 9, 2009 at 6:44 pm

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.

Milan October 9, 2009 at 6:45 pm

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.

Tristan October 9, 2009 at 6:50 pm

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.

Milan October 9, 2009 at 7:40 pm

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

. October 9, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Gay men ‘can be identified by their Facebook friends’

Homosexual men can be identified just by looking at their Facebook friends, according to unpublished research by two students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

La Canadienne October 9, 2009 at 11:35 pm

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

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