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What kind of Semantic Web researcher are you?

It’s hard to keep secrets in today’s increasingly interconnected, networked world. Social network megasites, mobile phones, webcams and  inter-site syndication can broadcast and amplify the slightest fragment of information. Data linking and interpretation tools can put these fragments together, to paint a detailed picture of your life, both online and off.

This online richness creates offline risk. For example, if you’re going away on holiday, there are hundreds of ways in which potential thieves could learn that your home is vacant and therefore a target for crime: shared calendars, twittered comments from friends or family, flickr’d photographs. Any of these could reveal that your home and possessions sit unwatched, unguarded, presenting an easy target for criminals.

Q: What research challenge does this present to the Semantic Web community? How can we address the concern that Semantic and Social Web technology have more to offer Burglar Bill than to his victims?

A1: We need better technology for limiting the flow of data, proving a right to legitimate access to information, cross-site protocols for deleting leaked or retracted data that flows between sites, and calculating trust metrics for parties requesting data access.

A2: We need to find ways to reconnect people with their neighbours and neighbourhoods, so that homes don’t sit unwatched when their occupants are away.

ps. Dear Bill, I have my iphone, laptop, piggy bank and camera with me…

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  1. Good read, Dan! You are right, the Social Web (see my post on RWW [1] for details on my view on the trend) starts to get woven and things will flow and replicate far from what we already have today. As you named in A1, I also see the two major issues
    I) the user’s control over their content, especially the reach: who gets view-access to what.
    II) revokeable access: once given access to content, there must be ways to revoke this.

    Currently, I) is provided by service providers, but far from being sufficient. Me, friends and family, friends of friends, is pretty one-dimensional and does not fit my needs. There must be more details. Friend lists are only a second step.

    II) is missing but fundamental because our brains work this way: we do forget. And because we forget, all the embarassing things we did 10 years ago, are forgotten. We are different beings now and thus, this information is outdated. One can also understand this brain feature as a natural filter. But I am no biologist. ;)
    However, this might be approached technically, or by a licence which expires automatically or on demand. Imagine a CC-by-1week. I am no expert in the licences domain. Is there something appropriate or something close?

    Cheers,
    Alex

    [1] http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/web_of_identities_making_machine-accessible_people_data.php

  2. I’m just glad to see that “What kind of Semantic Web researcher are you?” didn’t turn out to be one of those Facebook quizzes.

    Bob

  3. I’ve always thought it unfortunate that discussions of risks brought about by new technologies (and this is pretty much universally true) focuses more on the downside risks and not so much on the upside opportunities. Sure, someone might be able to spy on or impersonate me with all my information public, but how many opportunities to meet new friends, colleagues, or business opportunities have I missed?

    The expiring CC license is a neat idea, too.