Information Mining Essay, Uncategorized 0 comments on Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part IX

Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part IX

The role of this digital hammer is as the lead actor for progress in human relationships. Is it possible that the Internet can make us more human? I think that if we learn how to use the new wealth of information provided to us, then we will be better able to construct the relationships that bind us. This is best exemplified in the move towards a semantic web. This technology tries to take advantage of relationships between words instead of nodes to construct the web. To connect at such an abstract level returns to humanity the intimacy of communication. The web becomes a tool of how things are defined, and not how they are connected. This definition will be a truly democratic process. Notice the importance of participation. How words are connoted and defined is a level of communication that the Internet currently lacks. Returning the importance of communication to digital relationships is progress.

Progress will be realized when we can use the information that exists on the Internet to create a better world around us. This opportunity exists because there is a desire to improve the general condition of the way that communication and relationships are built. When relationships are a matter of understanding and not social standing, then we can say that the Internet has helped humanity progress. Another marker of social progress will be a breaking down of barriers that produce such situations as “haves” vs. “have-nots.” Is this possible? Yes, because once the overhead cost of infrastructure is paid, then the cost of business for being on the Internet reduces to zero. Amortizing this cost in the name of a more evenly distributed world income is a desire we should all aspire towards. Understanding has been the fundamental problem in many of the discords that have plagued humanity. A semantics based web that helps us better understand ourselves is another form of progress. There is a danger that it will kill the uniqueness of language, but this uniqueness, when it becomes ambiguity, is a root cause of discord amongst cultures. I’m not asking for individual cultures to lose their language, I’m asking for cultures to learn to understand each other through improved communication.

Is there a solution to the problem of ethics and data mining on the Internet? Yes. First and foremost we must build a system of trust between vendor and consumer. If we can’t build an Internet where trust is an integral part of the communities that are forming, then we cannot build a better Internet. Without a better Internet, our information is a treasure chest for wrong doers, and not a foundation for an improved world. This improved world must truly be global. To increase participation, we must ask that government open up its uses of gathered information to act as a model for corporate entities, which are also storing information. Ethically progressing towards an open information model will be an even more important issue in the years to come, and it is a challenge that we must embrace and answer globally. The consequences of remaining silent might devastate humanity and steal from us our identity.


Arrington, M. (2006). TechCrunch >> Blog Archive >> FTC may regulate PayPerPost. Retrieved Dec. 14, 2006, from

Barbour, I. (1993). Ethics in an age of Technology: The Gifford Lectures Volume 2. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Dibbell, J. “A rape in cyberspace.” How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database Into a Society. (Reprinted from The Village Voice, 1993, December 23)

Epstein, R. G. (2006). An ethics and security course for students in computer science and information technology. Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, 535-537.

Friedman, B. & Thomas, J. C. (2001). Is ignorance bliss?: Informed consent online. Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 215-216.

Fule, P. & Roddick, J. (2004). Detecting privacy and ethical sensitivity in data mining results. ACM International Conference Proceeding Series, 56, 159-166.

Jordan, L. J. “Senator challenge FBI chief over domestic spying program.” (Reprinted from The Boston Globe, 2006, December 7)

Kuhn, T. S. (1996). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press.

Sassower, R. (2004). Confronting Disaster: An existential approach to Technoscience. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books.

Tavani, H. T. (1999). Privacy online. ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society, 29(4), 11-19.

Tips for Protecting Privacy Online. (2006, August 18). Talk of the Nation: Science Friday. [Radio News Program]. Retrieved December 14, 2006 from Lexis-Nexis.

Vascellaro, J. E. “Online retailers are watching you.” (Reprinted from Wall Street Journal, 2006, November 28)

Woodbury, M. (2000). The bout of the century?: Information Ethics vs. E-Commerce. Ubiquity, 1(18).

Zeller Jr., T. “AOL acts on release of data.” New York: The New York Times Company. (Reprinted from The New York Times, 2006, August 22)

Information Mining Essay, Uncategorized 0 comments on Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part VIII

Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part VIII

A myth of the Internet must also be broken down so that progress can be made. The Internet does not provide unbound freedom from one’s physical self. One exists on the Internet similarly to the notion of existence in reality. There is an expectation to act responsibly. One cannot escape their duties in reality simply because they are virtual. Greater freedom is a farce of Internet propaganda. While it seems to be tougher, those who want to find and trace one’s trail on the Internet will do so. Freedom must be explained and defined for the information on the Internet to be more properly used.

The first paradigm shift that the Internet must go through is a movement away from an English-centric entity, into a global medium of communication, exchange, and growth. It is possible for the Internet to help us break down walls that have stood for generations. It is not possible for us to do this if we don’t allow the Internet to permeate into parts of the world where basic survival is still an issue. The Internet can help bridge gaps, but this must be done in a culturally sensitive way. We will learn a lot about ourselves as human beings as we help the Internet grow, and watch to see if humanity can grow with it.

This first paradigm shift is an example of how we’ve developed a “normal sociology” analogous to Kuhn’s “normal science.” The rich are supposed to get access to new technology. Once it has been refined to help the rich, then it can be mass-produced and everyone else can have access to it. This kind of sociology must be broken down if the Internet is going to help foster humanity. Part of the problem with how information is used is its de-humanizing affect. The rich will continue to maintain the status quo by stripping everyone else of their identity. This is an acceptable solution to those who have the ability to walk in and out of situations without the potential consequences harming them. As an example, someone who has the ability to spend responsibly can buy products on the Internet, and is willing to become a credit card number. Someone else who is given a chance to spend freely on the Internet but is unable to do so responsibly will find a new way to get into extreme credit card debt. Also because they are disassociated from judgment from a scornful face, they don’t feel as if they have to answer to someone on the other end when they’re spending over their affordable limit.

The revolutionary science here is a set of products that are released for everyone immediately for the good of everyone. This doesn’t seem to be asking too much, but if we look at how products are released and the groups that they are targeted towards, it’s simple to see that this is in fact quite the revolutionary business strategy. How can this be done? It’s a matter of empowering the lower classes as a buying block. There must be a willingness to redistribute income and opportunity. While this is a problem much larger than the Internet itself, the cost of business for Internet-based applications allows them to lead the way in enacting this change. The breaking down of class walls is an important goal for humanity in general, and this “sociological revolution” may come from a digital hammer.

Information Mining Essay, Uncategorized 1 comment on Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part VII

Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part VII

If we give the Internet legitimacy, then the users of the Internet will be better able to protect themselves. This will also help create better citizens within the Internet. These citizens must understand that they are involved in the creation of a new paradigm. They are creating the digital persona. They may identify themselves as this digital persona, but they also must understand the implications of their actions in the physical world. There also needs to be a focus on information education. We now have loads of information sent at us, but who can process it all? What does it mean if my credit score is below 600? Sure, I’ll buy that product I can’t afford because I have 3 months to pay it off. This kind of attitude will fail this generation financially, but the disconnect between having physical money, spending borrowed money, and earning credit prevents this generation from understanding the consequence of their actions. To know – the best defense against the information wave known as the Internet.

Of course, part of the ability to educate will come when more are involved in the Internet itself. It is generally a middle-upper class phenomenon. It requires computers, electricity, connectivity, and a general ability to spend time learning how to use. In many parts of the world, including rural areas of the United States, this just isn’t an option. Again, the least-advantaged are disenfranchised at the expense of the advantaged. Therefore increasing participation on the Internet will help in determining how information should be used. This is a global concern, but there isn’t a global dialogue.

Open dialogue will, I predict, improve the quality of browsing as well as the information that companies can glean. Most of us have nothing to hide, and as a result are more than willing to share our buying patterns in hopes of getting similar products that we will like. However, that same group does not want their credit card number released onto the Internet for anyone to use. Another element of the government’s participation is allowing the computers that the Internet runs on to be moved to international locations. America has no right to claim ownership over a global commodity like the Internet. Overall, participation is a key step to making sure that the use of information on the Internet is somehow regulated. If governments are unwilling to regulate, then the masses must do so.

I think that it’s important to note that just because the Internet is a technical entity does not mean that a technical solution exists to all of its problems. This is the issue of the silver bullet that we discussed in class. Technological fixes turn into an “arms race” of build, break, repair – repeat. Technologies such as tor and Anonymizer allow the user to hide from where they are browsing. This protects the user, but does not allow the company to better serve their client. Should the user have to lose on certain offers because they are afraid of being tracked? In today’s Internet, the answer seems to be yes. Better rules, better software can be written, but someone will break it, and the cycle will continue. Technology is the foundation of the Internet, not the solution of the information problem on the Internet.

Information Mining Essay, Uncategorized 0 comments on Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part VI

Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part VI

But what if we just didn’t know? Couldn’t ignorance be bliss? The problem is that many are using the Internet without, “the cognitive ability to appreciate the possible consequences of disclosure of personal information” (Friedman and Thomas). Even something as simple as describing one’s daily route to school for a class project in following directions and then posting it online could potentially allow a stalker or harm doer to more easily make one a target. Beyond the web, imagine how one’s SIM card could be used in their telephone. Whenever you walk by the GAP in a mall, it will send you a text message with their latest sale offer (Friedman and Thomas). It can be scanned as you enter and exit so that there is a record of where you have been. Again and again, the trust between the user and anonymous continues to break down if we don’t know and understand the implications of sharing information digitally.

I still think that the academic community is looking too hard for experts to find the solution to these problems. This is a problem that needs to be solved by the masses. Where the experts can help is to understand whether the issues we are dealing with are inherent to the Internet or simply a function of computer software in general (Tavani). There needs to be an emphasis on better software design, this is true, but, in the absence of improved code, there needs to be an information revolution on the Internet. The users of this domain have to demand that their information be used within the limits they impose, and the companies need to respect these demands. The need to deliver the solution that aides the least well-off is important to ensuring that as the Internet grows, the information in it does not become a threat to our identity. Furthermore, the users need to become better educated about what they should and should not expose about themselves. Finally, there needs to be a greater sense of trust between users. The Internet shouldn’t be a playing field for harm doers. It’s up to the users to make sure that these issues are solved.

Being on the Internet is a tight rope act between finding what used to be unknown and leaving a trail where one can be followed. Constantly wiping out the trail behind you makes the process of “surfing the web” much more difficult, but is probably a necessary action in today’s Internet (Tips). However, even this done well might not be enough. The real solution is exposing the Internet for what it is, an elevator where everyone is listening even if they are acting as if they aren’t paying attention, and moving from there to develop a more participatory solution to the issues presented.

As I have stressed throughout most of this paper, I think that education is an important marker of progress in dealing with this topic. How can we educate about something abstract like the Internet? Bring it into our curricula and help develop good browsing techniques. Show students that the Internet isn’t about pornography, social networking sites, and online games. Create the paradigm of a digital identity successfully so that future generations are able to know the difference between their physical self and their online persona.

Information Mining Essay, Uncategorized 0 comments on Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part V

Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part V

This brings up the issue of protection and its relationship with privacy. In worldview 1, we let the church protect us. This evolved into a more state-sponsored role as worldviews progressed. In the next worldview, we might need to protect ourselves. Our identity’s are now what’s at stake, and something as large as the national government exists at too macro a level to be the protecting entity. It’s going to be an integral part of the new worldview to define how government and the individual co-exist. In many ways, governments are transcended by the seemingly limitless bounds of the Internet, and yet, it is the government that can best restrict our access and experience on the Internet. Should they be allowed to do so? Is China justified in blocking content with which the ruling party doesn’t agree? What about our government and its domestic spying practices? The argument from both entities is that they are protecting the masses from potentially harming themselves. If the goals were simply this altruistic, none would have cause to worry. However, it is often the case that information is misused and corrupted to serve a purpose. Can the government be trusted to not conduct a McCarthy-esque digital witch-hunt? The ability to protect an identity on the macro scale is too large a task. Therefore, I think that privacy and protection become roles relegated to the individual on a micro scale, and the government should set the guidance for proper governance of digitally gathered information.

Let me pause and define privacy. Privacy is, “an individual’s desire and ability to keep certain information about themselves hidden from others” (Fule and Roddick). The important thing to remember here is that privacy online delivers back to the individual their humanity offline. Protecting this privacy is a critical part of any future where reality and the Internet must co-exist.

Is it possible to data mine and exclude sensitive information? Fule and Roddick seem to argue that this can be done with improved rule sets for selecting data. Also, one has to understand the rules that they are constructing and see where potentially harmful information can be found. This is analogous to saying that we must predict that whatever we create can be used for harm and take every step imaginable to make sure the harms that we imagine cannot become reality. As has been demonstrated throughout the course, to completely think of every use of a product is impossible. Even if this were possible, their solution requires the user to interface with the data-mining algorithm to make critical decisions. Oftentimes, it is the user themselves who does not understand the information and its implications. This partial solution, and the derivatives that have come from it since, is the reason why I say that a technical solution is not possible.

I think that there are professionals in computer science who agree that this is a social issue that must be discussed. Above all else, it is an issue of identity (Woodbury). Am I willing to sell my identity for the convenience of anonymity? The key to answering that question is knowing. I have to know to whom I am giving my information, to whom they will give my information, and how anyone will use my information. Woodbury stresses that we cannot trust that Internet businesses will follow ethically acceptable business practices. It may not be in their best interest to secure user data, and as a result, the user’s information may be up for sale to the highest bidder. Knowing that, what are you willing to share? Your identity should not be a commodity sold to the highest bidder, but by doing business on the Internet, you are risking this exact issue. The consumer must demand from the company that their identity be protected.

Information Mining Essay, Uncategorized 0 comments on Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part IV

Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part IV

There is a constant struggle to expand the circle of inclusion for ethical thought in discourse. This is often aimed at natural environments – animals, plants, ecosystems – but what about digital persons? With the development of games such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest and online communities such as Second Life, digital beings are becoming an integral part of people’s lives. What of our ethical domain transfers into this digital world? This question was debated when an early multi-user role-playing game had a user digitally control and rape other users (Dibbell). What did this mean? The community came together and discussed the issue, but was unable to reach a conclusion. An administrator of the game arbitrarily deleted the offender’s account. However, the question of ethical dimensions in a digital world was not answered. Do our physical ethics exist in a digital world? They must if the load of information that exists on the Internet is to be dealt with appropriately. We cannot lose the trust that we’ve built into our system of digital exploration, and this requires us to extend our circle to include our digital personas as well. Has this technology created more harm than good? Barbour warms that, “technology has created subtle ways of manipulating people and new techniques of electronic surveillance and psychological conditioning.” What will be the cost of these new techniques to our physical and digital personas?

I think that it is critical to look at how trust develops on the Internet, maintain this first pass, and then improve on it. When the ability to purchase online became an option, my mom refused to do so. Why? She didn’t think that should trust online retailers. How can one trust an individual who can memorize and then use your credit card, but not trust a machine that is built to protect your information? There was a barrier between the physical meaning of trust and the virtual meaning of trust. This barrier has crumbled for my mom, and others as well. This is because Internet commerce has found a way to build healthy relationships between the companies and the consumers. However, I know that my mom won’t store her credit card information in their databases. Ease of use has not yet won over her need to feel financially secure. This suggests to me that there are varying levels of trust, and that each time an incident of exposed data is revealed, that level of trust takes another step backwards. So how do we build trust? I think a more open attitude is required here. It is the inability to discern when information is being gathered, and how it is being used, that leads to the breakdown of trust between physical persons and online companies. Building trust is an integral part of the evolution of information and identity on the Internet.

This is one place where the government could make a big, positive difference. Already having displayed its ability to mine such information (Jordan), the government should now take an active role in regulating how this information can be handled and economized. This would give a legitimacy to the Internet businesses who need to use the information for business practices, but protect the consumer from the potential harms of data mining, accidentally released data, and data solicitation. If the consumer’s voice was backed by a government regulatory agency, then we would start to see the kind of information maintenance needed to help the Internet grow without threatening individual’s identity’s. This does not give the government access to this kind of information. Though it is an overseer, it must be one through a black box model. It can check inputs and outputs, and when results are incorrect go back and tweak the inside mechanics, but it should not actively be involved with the data itself. It seems that the government has already shown that it cannot ethically be the body where data is stored and distributed (Jordan), but should attempt to repair the damages done by enacting a more public policy of better governance over data garnered through the Internet.

Information Mining Essay, Uncategorized 0 comments on Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part III

Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part III

We must find a way to process the information that is constantly thrown at us. However, it is important to maintain the elements of our own information that don’t need to be shared. Greater amounts of information for progress don’t excuse those using the information from taking our identity or humanity. We shouldn’t wait for a crisis to try to enact these changes. It is the duty of the consumer to demand change from the producer. The producer’s best interest is to continue the business practices that have allowed them to succeed thus far. Therefore, a consumer revolution of sorts must occur to ensure that information is appropriately used. As Barbour notes, “Recognition of the inadequacy of old patterns plus the vision of positive alternatives could produce major changes,” without the need for a disaster like AOL’s search leak (Zeller Jr.) to repeat itself. Therefore a delicate balance must be found between use and intent, with an eye out for preservation.

Even if the information is tacitly shared, the question of who owns the information must still be asked. Do I have a right to pull my records out of the databases of an online retailer with whom I no longer plan to do business? Is this true of other business contacts that we have in the physical world? I think the issue of ownership scares the general public more than the other issues because of the permanence involved. If I have privacy concerns, then I simply stop browsing the Internet. However, if anyone has ever saved a page with my information on it, I cannot force him or her to get rid of it. Furthermore, through simple technology based techniques, companies are now able to store information about one’s search, browsing, and shopping habits. This means that they can not only tailor their advertising towards products that you would more likely be interested in, but also hold information that the user feels should be kept secret. I have to carefully weigh the need to do business on the Internet versus my right to privacy. If businesses cannot guarantee my anonymity, then I am forced to take my privacy into my own hands. The lack of any kind of regulation in this area means that the companies only report to themselves. This responsibility is one that is bound to create a very grey area in terms of right and wrong. Maintaining the integrity of data while making a profit is simple for any company, but when economic tides turn, and the data is a valuable asset, what is to bar the company from freely using a user’s information to earn a profit?

Information Mining Essay, Uncategorized 0 comments on Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part II

Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part II

Should collecting information about people without their knowledge be allowed? At the heart of this question, is whether or not our privacy is maintained if others are collecting information about us. This is the most serious implication here because the others are derivatives of this question. Ultimately, one should understand that, “everything we do on the Internet should be treated like an elevator: people are going to be listening,” (Tips for Protecting Privacy Online) but the issue of privacy isn’t concerned with what we’re willing to share that is exposed, but what we aren’t willing to share that is exposed (Zeller Jr). The danger is that the fragile relationship between the individual and the anonymous will crumble. It is this desired anonymity of the web that makes it such an attractive sphere of commerce and relationship. What happens when we lose this security of anonymity? The price that we paid, “depersonaliz[ing] our culture and los[ing] the compassion and pity … perceived in [Roussea’s] Noble Savage” (Sassower, 59) all go for naught. We feel a sense of angst because we’ve given of ourselves and received nothing in return. In fact, it could be perceived that we’ve lost more than we gave. Information must be gathered, but what is the cost of leaving pieces of one’s self behind? If I can still be identified, then my need for, and trust in, the Internet disappears.

In previous worldviews, information was either given to the individual, or was compartmentalized enough to be properly processed. This is no longer the case. Information is in and of itself a paradigm that is becoming more and more difficult to process. Kuhn calls a paradigm, “what members of a scientific community share,” and this can be extended to the Internet by looking at all users as the scientists experimenting on how the web connects us and allows us to interact. Beyond processing, comprehension is also becoming an issue. The next worldview must address information and see how it is affecting the general ability for humans to evolve the understanding between the various paradigms that co-exist. If information could be better understood, then the potential to bridge paradigms would increase, and the potential progress derived from this is quite exciting.

However, the notion that less is more fails here. Why? Because the less of ourselves that we give, the more that we lose. At the same time, giving up too much of ourselves, and then having this information blatantly misused makes less of us as individuals, while returning little in terms of better service, better experience, and better understanding of our identity. Sassower comments that, “Computer technology can replace some of the uses of a library, but it must be treated respectfully … in order to sustain our humanity” (Sassower, 101). Similarly, the Internet can replace much of how we interact or exist, but it must be done in such a way as to preserve our humanity. When we exit our browsers, it is important that we are still human. Giving up too little of ourselves denies us the experience of the Internet, while giving too up too much leaves a shell where a human once stood.

Information Mining Essay, Uncategorized 0 comments on Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part I

Encroachment in Information Mining Technologies – Part I

Data mining has slowly, and silently, pervaded into the lives of everyday digital consumers. Using Gmail? Look at the advertisements on the right hand side of the screen and notice that they’re related to the contents of your e-mail. Are you a social networker? You’ve released information about yourself onto the Internet for almost anyone to see, collect, and use. Use a telephone? The government has filters on all international phone calls monitoring your conversation and electronically recording your phone call. The ability to be monitored has reached levels never before imaginable. What does this mean to our rights to privacy? How can we be sure that our humanity is preserved if we become binary entities? What are the limits of digital data mining in a modern, connected worldview? These are the questions that I plan to answer in this essay.

What are some major ethical implications of data mining? One major issue is whether a person’s basic rights are being violated when someone is collecting information about them, and they don’t know that it is happening. While it wouldn’t be fair to say that this question has never been asked, it has never been truly answered. When it’s beneficial (Vascellaro), then maybe the user doesn’t mind. However, when things go wrong (Zeller Jr.), then the user’s very identity is in danger of being rewritten. Another issue that needs to be addressed is the question of ownership. Who owns the path through which you travel the Internet? This is in fact very valuable data, and an organization named Alexa ( gathers this information to rank websites. The result – whether explicitly or tacitly gathered, there is a trail of one’s voyages across the World Wide Web, and personal information can be gleaned from this trail. The owner of this information isn’t the trailblazer. Also, I think it’s important to look at the role of government in this arena. The government is often labeled as, “Big Brother”, but it has the opportunity to help with the regulation and governance of this issue (Arrington).

The issue of ethics in data mining is by no means new in computer science, but the questions surrounding the issue seem to lack concrete answers. While ethics lack concrete answers in general, it is the shortage of constructive dialogue that seems to be holding back the potential development of solutions in the realm of data mining and the Internet. I think that it is generally held that there is a technological fix to the issue of privacy and data mining, but I disagree, and I think that this is a social question that must be answered by the masses and not the experts.