The Dutch civil registration the day after the attack in 1943
Today, this information is to be found in many places. Consider such an innocent piece of data collection as a supermarket loyalty card. It can predict your religious background, detecting a pattern when you buy kosher food only.
We leave traces of our identity everywhere. Although I believe in optimizing customer experience by collecting the right data, we have to make sure we only collect the essential data. I admit I am torn between these opposing needs: better customer experience through profiling on the one hand, and anonymity for protection against evil doers on the other.
Another - much smaller - example of collecting too much information is the Daily Telegraph. They installed (and later removed) workplace monitors this week to see whether newspaper staff were at their desks by using heat and motion sensors, BuzzFeed News has learned. For what?
Anonimity As An Option
Unlike mere SSL encryption, which hides the content of the site a web visitor is accessing, the used Tor hidden service would ensure that even the fact that the reader visited ProPublica’s website would be hidden from an eavesdropper or Internet service provider.
To most this sounds like an unnecessary level of paranoia to go through to read the news. But last year when ProPublica was working on a report about Chinese online censorship, and wanted to make sure the reporting was itself safe to visit for Chinese readers. This is as relevant in 2016, as it was in 1943.
Although collecting data can do great things, it is important - in my view - to restrain ourselves to the information we really need to achieve our business goals. And we must never forget our societal goals. I like Propublica’s idea of offering complete anonymity as an alternative. Everyone should have the ability to decide what types of metadata they leave behind.