The Quantum Thief: online marketing, NSA and internet privacy – public and private memories exposed

Just happened to read an older book which is surprisingly well hitting into today’s hot topic: privacy.

Basic theme in the book illustrates a society where people have their public and private memories. Public memory is collective thing, kind of future internet, where all data is available to anyone. Private memories are protected by a firewall kind of thing, where a person can decide case by case how much information will be revealed to other parties. So all are happy and everything seem to be under control.

But there is a backdoor in system. A way, for someone capable, to manipulate the memories. This drill down to actual existence of a person. They cannot actually know anymore who they are and what they think as memories can be either modified, deleted or planted into them. Other dimension is stealing those memories. If you can take a copy of other peoples whereabouts from their head, you can figure out quite a lot about what they might be up to in their next turn. Creating kind of competitive advantage to those having the knowledge.

The connection to today’s world somehow struck me while reading this book. I don’t know, if the writer (Hannu Rajaniemi) has been thinking about this, but for me it seems so clear. The collective memory is now being created into internet. What ever unanswered question is troubling your mind, you can find an answer from internet to it, but is the answer correct that is for you to judge. What ever you are seeking will leave a track, if you are typing it to your computer or articulate it into your phone.

If the thing you broadcast is part of aforementioned “public memory”, meaning thing that you want to or your don’t care if it is publicly known, then it can be used by someone in positive sense for example into online marketing purposes. You will get better offers and more targeted offering fitting into your actual need. So this is positive side of the coin. Both information provider and user feel like getting benefit. They both are also doing it on purpose.

Other side will be revealed in situations when you notice that your “private memories” are used as source of information for activities, that maybe are harming your own intentions. Internet and telephone network are excellent tools to do exactly what they are called: network. All the connections you have are stored into those: single sided or two-way. With that information quite a lot of conclusions can be drawn, if information is combined together. Who you know, what you do, what you are interested in and so on. In this case only winner is the party using the information, that was not meant to be publicly available.

Information is power. Especially when you are able to incorporate many sources from that “private memory” domain. The lesson embedded into book is that (IMHO of course), if the environment is not controlled properly, someone will most probably miss use the information in order to take personal advantage.

Thrilling reading, even without topical link. The writer has created a world with so many dimensions that it is hard to follow, but trust me it is worth of all effort.

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