Friday, March 10, 2006

Information Use

Having just read Scribe's sarcastic post about the UK students charged with possessing information likely to be useful to a terrorist [source BBC News] ...
"how about bus timetables?"
... I was primed to misread Bruce Schneier's post about Data Mining for Terrorists. I thought this was going to be about bad people using good tools for bad purposes. It turned out it was about good people using bad inappropriate tools for good purposes.

But it set me thinking about the potential use of good information by bad people. Or by good people for misguided purposes. Or whatever.

In an open distributed world, just as we have problems with controlling the source of information (see my previous posts on Information Sharing and Data Provenence), we have problems with controlling the destination.

This is obviously important for security and privacy. See my notes on Information Leakage, Inference and Inference Control. But it has wider implications. What is the effect of someone reusing my information (or my services, which often comes to the same thing) in complex mashed-up ways I cannot predict or control?

(Apologies to Feedburner and Feedblitz subscribers who got yesterday's pictures twice. I think I need to change my splicing settings. This seems to be a minor example of a similar thing - interference between two useful services producing unexpected effects. Except of course this one is under my control - or would have been if I had paid attention to it.)

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