Wil Harris at bit-tech.net has written an excellent essay summarizing the privacy threats of Web 2.0. A choice nugget:
Why are the companies worth so much money? Why is MySpace worth over half a billion dollars without a proper revenue model? Why is Digg allegedly pitched at over $20m (at the last count) without any idea of where money is going to be pulled from?The answer is – data. Information. Marketing. Every detail about you and me. That is where the money is.
He goes on to describe some of the specific privacy threats by popular Web 2.0 services:
The one thing the Web 2.0 sites have in common is that they are furiously mining information about you and your buddies. What you like. What you like that your buddies like. Digg knows what stories you’ve submitted, what demographic you’re in, how other people in your demographic react to what you post. MySpace can break its users down by almost any statistic imaginable, then mine that data for more information about what it is you’re doing and sharing online, and how that relates to your friends in the same (or different) demographics.
Flickr is perhaps one of the most interesting ones. Search for ‘cat’, and Flickr will record the most popular photo clicked. By associating the colour and picture data within photos with keywords used to search, Yahoo is slowly building a database of human identification. It has often said that the differentiator between Yahoo and Google, going forward, is that Yahoo wants the web processed by humans and Google wants it done by robots. Google uses algorithms to generate anything to do with its business. Yahoo, with its acquisition of Flickr and Delicious and whatever else is on the horizon, wants people – and social networks – to define how it does business.
Will’s conclusion is key:
When the Web 2.0 bubble bursts – when the massive buyouts are done, the millionaires are made and the sites we love today are in the hands of big business – the innovation will grind to a halt, and what’s left will be the endless grinding of the marketeering machine.
…and this endless grinding will be fueled by mountains of personal data.
[via Pogo Was Right]