Your privacy online, in the age of Web 2.0 is really an illusion. With the age of open APIs, data flowing back and forth between applications, it seems that the notion of Privacy, with a capital P, has gone by the wayside.
Spock is a search engine for people and facts. It is an automatic Wikipedia, it seems. The insight the folks at Spock had was "Let's collect the existing online profiles on people and tag them implicitly based on the content of the profiles. Then let's link up all the findings by their name". What you get as a result is a wickedly accurate search engine on people AND attributes about them. Spock collects where you have profiles, extracts data and lets you claim your profile so that you can help them maintain it. The search algorithm is secret, as is the ordering of the results. As if.
Here is Spock's dynamic collection of people tagged with University of Michigan. You can see that most are public personalities, but some are clearly not. You don't have to sign up to use the service. You don't need to supply any information at all. You don't need to pass a security test of any kind. This data has been laboriously collected from many, many websites by Spock and delivered in an easy to use Google-like interface. Just think how this for example compares to the police database. Better or worse? What about people labeled with tags, maliciously or rightfully. Who do you apply to to clear up libelous statements?
No need to sort through many pages when researching a potential date. If they have shared anything about them online, Spock will tell you as much as it knows WITHOUT their consent. There is something inherently scary about this, isn't there? My usual thought process when posting personal info online goes something like this:
1. I posted my details on the site for others in the website. Others have to register to see similar details.
2. I would imagine Google would find personal home pages for me, but one would have to sort through a reasonable amount of detail. It's privacy by obfuscation. Google usually doesn't show password protected sites unless they are publically posted, like LinkedIn's public profile page. I rely on the disconnected-ness of many websites to hide my complete online profile.
It appears with Spock, as long as organizations are open to sharing the data through their APIs, one can build a very, very thorough dossier on just about anyone. To delete a Spock account, you have to pretty much clean up all your profiles and then beg Spock to remove it. Whoa. Can't they just remove me? And I thought the telephone book was bad.
It's time that there was more disclosure about exactly how websites like Facebook share details with other websites, programmatically. I see this as the next privacy debate of the 21st century. The implications are mind-blowing.
Thank you Spock, for not yet tapping into Facebook. When you do, I will be the first to cancel my Facebook account.
The old joke went "On the Internet, noone knows you're a dog." Now they very well may.