People often think I'm a privacy researcher, thanks to the Facebook and iPhone stories. The truth is I'm just curious about undiscovered data. Because a lot of it is about people's behavior, and that's an inherently creepy area, I blog about what I'm doing to keep myself honest. It might look like I'm on a privacy crusade, but that's just a by-product of my attempts to figure out ethical ways to use these sources of information. I'm a data hacker, and I'm trying to keep my hat clean.
This has been on my mind a lot recently as I'm looking around at all the information that's publicly available about exactly where people have been. Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Flickr, Twitter are all making rich streams of location data available, especially around photos. My vision is a world where I can make those digital footprints visible to ordinary users. Who comes to this bar? Any of my friends? What sort of people take photos at this hotel?
The raw data to do this is already out there in multiple places, and you can do some of it by going to individual sites like Foursquare, but there's something different about merging together scattered information, even if it's all theoretically public already. You have to make a choice before your activities are publicly visible from these services, but the implications of that choice aren't clear until somebody aggregates the data and demonstrates why the sum is greater than its parts.
I wish I could pretend I was only worried about the privacy implications, but the truth is I'm excited about how fun and useful the applications could be!