It should be illegal to collect and permanently store most kinds of behavioral data.
In the United States, they warn us the world will end if someone tries to regulate the Internet. But the net itself was born of a fairly good regulatory framework that made sure de facto net neutrality existed for decades, paid for basic research into protocols and software, cleared the way for business use of the internet, and encouraged the growth of the commercial web.
It’s good regulation, not lack of regulation, that kept the web healthy.
Here’s one idea for where to begin:
- Limit what kind of behavioral data websites can store. When I say behavioral data, I mean the kinds of things computers notice about you in passing—your search history, what you click on, what cell tower you’re using.
It’s very important that we regulate this at the database, not at the point of collection. People will always find creative ways to collect the data, and we shouldn’t limit people’s ability to do neat things with our data on the fly. But there should be strict limits on what you can save.
- Limit how long they can keep it. Maybe three months, six months, three years. I don’t really care, as long as it’s not fifty years, or forever. Make the time scale for deleting behavioral data similar to the half-life of a typical Internet business.
Limit what they can share with third parties. This limit should also apply in the event of bankruptcy, or acquisition. Make people’s data non-transferable without their consent.
Enforce the right to download. If a website collects information about me, I should be allowed to see it. The EU already mandates this to some extent, but it’s not evenly enforced.
This rule is a little sneaky, because it will require backend changes on many sites. Personal data can pile up in all kinds of dark corners in your system if you’re not concerned about protecting it. But it’s a good rule, and easy to explain. You collect data about me? I get to see it.
Enforce the right to delete. I should be able to delete my account and leave no trace in your system, modulo some reasonable allowance for backups.
Give privacy policies teeth. Right now, privacy policies and terms of service can change at any time. They have no legal standing. For example, I would like to promise my users that I’ll never run ads on my site and give that promise legal weight. That would be good marketing for me. Let’s create a mechanism that allow this.
Let users opt-in if a site wants to make exceptions to these rules. If today’s targeted advertising is so great, you should be able to persuade me to sign up for it. Persuade me! Convince me! Seduce me! You’re supposed to be a master advertiser, for Christ’s sake!
Make the protections apply to everyone, not just people in the same jurisdiction as the regulated site. It shouldn’t matter what country someone is visiting your site from. Keep it a world-wide web.
Even more interesting, at least to me, was what my fake followers did for me. My Klout score almost instantly shot up. I was not impressed by that until I realized that Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, collaborates with Klout, so that a higher Klout score put me higher on Bing’s search results.
The followers thing is always a strange consideration — I have something like 4k+ now but that doesn’t mean these people are all still active, wildly engaged with what I do or anything else of value. And yet, because they appeared organically over the years, there’s a sense they mean something more than if they were bought and fake.
I think this chap got the right idea — find an excuse for an “experiment” that let’s you have your (integrity) cake and eat it.
Survival had been drummed into him for months as part of Singaporean army training. He’d survived for two weeks on 48 hours’ worth of rations before; he’d been in the top 10 per cent of recruits. He wanted to go on to do paratrooper training, commando training. But when he was deployed to Brunei he misjudged how hungry he’d already be when the survival phase begun, and he “wolfed” his rations sooner than he should. The only reason he didn’t steal food from a starving friend was because he didn’t have the energy to.
All of this takes time. That’s why we’ve elected to sacrifice something else as opposed to accuracy or accessibility. The sacrifice is speed — we’re rarely going to be the first organization to break news or to comment on a story.
This is an interesting choice. I think our ability to make a rapid but rough call on data can often give you 80% of the picture — which makes me question how often that extra 20% of insight is worth the delay.
I like data but I remain healthily suspicious of its fetishisation as more become possible with it.
Every time a story comes up about the details of what is and isn’t healthy for you, I come back to this article. Eating 80% healthily isn’t insanely hard, but trying to nail down the details of the last mysterious and often contradictory 20% always seems a mess.
From the article:
That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words. I’ll try to resist but will go ahead and add a couple more details to flesh out the advice.
Like: A little meat won’t kill you, though it’s better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re much better off eating whole fresh foods than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to eat “food.”
Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.
““We fully expect that we when write a story about soccer, we’re going to be referring to it as ‘football’ in the U.K. headline,” Hansen said. “It’s millions of decisions like that that will determine the success of this kind of expansion.””
I hope they have their best men on the job.
Roger Angell: Life in the Nineties: I’d happily read a blog of letters from old people passing on their wisdom and experience. There’s something earned by longevity that contrasts so deeply with the daily throwaway content from ‘experts’ that riddles our every day.
He had stumbled upon that one, critical missing ingredient — an ingredient that Rosenstein and Asana’s leadership have accepted as key to their success: Clarity.
Whatever you call it, establishing the clear “why” and making sure everyone is on the same page is an unmeasurable but essential priority in my book.