Data Mining, Google Searches & Privacy

Here is an interesting and informative article by Robert Boyd on the use of data mining to create profiles on people based on their past activities. Data mining is being used by both the public and private sectors to create personal and behavioral profiles on citizens / consumers.

Everyone from government agencies to marketing professionals are using controversial data mining technology that takes large amounts of personal information, analyzed with computer programs, to predict future personal behavior.

From the article —

You may never have heard the term “data mining,” but it’s at the core of the argument that’s raging over government eavesdropping on Americans. It’s also how commercial companies learn about who you are, where you go, what you eat, what you like and what you buy.

Data mining is the process of using computer technology to extract the knowledge that’s buried in enormous volumes of undigested information. Trillions of bits of raw data are culled from telephone calls, e-mails, the Internet, airlines, car rentals, stores, credit card records and other sources.

“A lot can be learned about a person through the combination of massive amounts of data and the use of sophisticated analytical techniques,” said Daniel Solove, an associate law professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Whenever you search for information or a product on the Internet, say on Google or Yahoo, you leave a trace.

“Every single search you’ve ever conducted — ever — is stored on a database somewhere,” said Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School. “There’s probably nothing more embarrassing than the searches we’ve made.”

Of course, like all technology, data mining has its pros and its cons. The human problem is in distinguising between the positive uses for data mining, like fighting terrorism, and negative uses like prejudging people based on incomplete data stores of information on past behaviors.

You can read the entire article @ What have you been Googling? Data miners know.