“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

When the good meets the bad, what are we to do?

Posted by direwolff on July 11, 2006

The DOJ & the FBI have an agenda around data retention and communications tracking. Articles on c|net re: “DOJ, Net firms fail to agree on data retention” & “FBI plans new Net-tapping push” are really becoming worrisome because of this apparent emphasis which leverages fear of terrorists and child pornography/abuse as a justification for gutting the U.S. Constitution. The fact is often that in practical usage, it’s only occasionally that the laws effected by these initiatives are actually used to thwart those crimes. What really irritates me about these initiatives however, is the government’s attempts at appropriating the data and technology platform that we have all become accustomed to using for productive or entertainment reasons and turning this into their tool for surveyance of the populus. This, against our forefathers’ wishes and well thought out Republic, that provided a government with checks and balances. Our current government has not shown itself trustworthy and able to handle the authority it has been given and hence does not deserve and should not be given more for any reason.
Now enter some new initiatives at play, specifically, whose noble goals are clearly stated in their Mission:

  1. Empower people to exert greater control over their “attention data,” i.e. any records reflecting what they have paid attention to and what they have ignored. We accomplish this by promoting the principles of user control, by distributing our Attention Recorder, and by supporting the development of other appropriate tools, standards and practices.

  2. Educate people about the value of their attention and the importance of attention data.

  3. Build a community of individuals and organizations that will guarantee users’ rights to own, move, and exchange their attention data, in a transparent environment that gives users the freedom to decide how their data will be used.

I’ve been very supportive of the AttentionTrust and am friends or well acquainted with several of its founders. In the big scheme of the economics of the Internet, I believe that they’re providing tools that will not only help individuals get more out of their online experience and have a say in how their information can be used to their benefit, but they’re providing a platform that can help further leverage the concepts behind the “Wisdom of Crowds“. But like all good things we have to be aware of the government’s war on our freedoms & privacy, and in so doing we need to begin deliberating on the consequences of people having Attention Recorders that are now directly accessible by the government, by passing ISPs and telcos by simply mandating that citizens be obliged to keep these running and made accessible (as part of paying one’s taxes let’s say). Erasing one’s Attention Recorder might come with misdemeanor fines as a means of discouraging the turning off or removal of this. I hate to contemplate such a conspiratorial scenario but given where things seem to be heading, I believe this is a natural next step and one that requires some serious discussion.

Does this mean that the AttentionTrust should be stopped? Perhaps not, but I don’t believe it has given enough consideration to what happens when the government usurps the good work that people are doing and leverages this as a tool to intrude on people’s lives at its whim, and further advances its agenda as it is doing on several fronts today in the name of a war on the absurd and nebulous, terror.

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