Monday, April 10, 2006

Identity Auctions at eBAY– Here We Come (or, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale)

I'm not sure whether it's Steve Gillmor's long-time Attention crusade, or whether it is that people simply gave up the idea of protecting their Identity, after the latest DoJ-Giants affair – anyway, it seems to me that another sacred cow has been slaughtered: Identities have become a tradable currency.

Bob Tedeschi's "Every Click You Make, They'll Be Watching You", describes Claria, the company behind the infamous Gator software, and its new PersonalWeb - "a service that will let people download a piece of tracking software and receive a home page filled with news stories and other information tailored to their interests".

This is probably the 1st "Let me track anything you're doing for your own benefit" service, but many will certainly follow. For Steve Gillmor has been doing a terrific job in persuading people that their Identity can be monetized (see Root Vaults, chaired by Gillmor's ex-companion, Seth Goldstein) and that it can yield great advantage for them, the users, in this timeless era we're living in (as presented in his gestures bank concept).

The thing is we always knew – probably ever since the appearance of the Homo sapiens - that our Identity is valuable; it's only that trading in human Identities had been considered a taboo. Identity is not a tradeable currency, and therefore that one ancient exception in which it was traded for a potage of lentils gained a considerable attention...

But this taboo is now obsolete. "We have established what you are, madam. We are now merely haggling over the price". Identity Auctions at eBAY– here we come.

Attention Laundering.

There's one more thing to say on the emerging Identity trading markets – we're about to witness the greatest Attention Laundering ever. Now that the old taboo is no longer an obstacle, the Giants that have been tracking our every move for years will soon open the buried Identity canisters and release our re-engineered virtual selves for trade.

Here's a story, in which I reveal my greedy and dishonest past: In the year 2000 I worked for a startup that created an ad banners placement engine that has been sold to ISPs around the world. I had that idea of creating a Personalized Ad Server, targeting each individual according to his/her accumulated, analyzed and aggregated clickstreams. This involved the creation of a multi-terabytes clickstreams data warehouse, and so I headed north to Boston to meet some world experts in this area. I was naïve enough to think my idea was original, but then one of those experts told me that XXX, one of the largest ISPs in the US, has been collecting, for years already, any click made by their millions of subscribers. "What are they doing with all these clickstreams?" I asked him, and he shrugged and said: "Nothing!" Those illicit clickstreams have been stored inside nuclear-proof canisters that were later on buried deep under the Giants' data centers, until the time will come to open them up.

And that Time, so it seems, has come.

* We can Remember It For You Wholesale is a short story by Philip K. Dick in which human memories (Identities?) are traded. This story was adapted into "Total Recall", hence Schwarzenegger.


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