Re: PNAS study on predicting human behavior using digital records

Picture a box with 2,000 or 10,000 puzzle pieces inside—any one puzzle piece reveals nothing about the picture. But when all the pieces are assembled, an incredibly detailed picture FULL of information is created.

The data mining industry—including Google, Facebook, Acxiom and thousands more unknown corporations and foreign businesses—assembles the puzzle of who we are from thousands of bits of data we leave online. They know FAR MORE than anyone on Earth knows about each of us—more than what our partners, our moms and dads, our best friends, our psychoanalysts, or our children know about us.

The UK study shows how easy it is for hidden data mining companies to intimately know us (and sell) WHO WE ARE.

Most Americans are not aware of the ‘surveillance economy’ or that data miners can easily collect intimate psychological and physical/health profiles of everyone from online data.

The study:

  • “demonstrates the degree to which relatively basic digital records of human behavior can be used to automatically and accurately estimate a wide range of personal attributes that people would typically assume to be private”
  • “is based on Facebook Likes, a mechanism used by Facebook users to express their positive association with (or “Like”) online content, such as photos, friends’ status updates, Facebook pages of products, sports, musicians, books, restaurants, or popular Web sites”
  • correctly discriminates between:
    • homosexual and heterosexual men in 88% of cases
    • African Americans and Caucasian Americans in 95% of cases
    • between Democrat and Republican in 85% of cases
    • For the personality trait “Openness,” prediction accuracy is close to the test–retest accuracy of a standard personality test

The “surveillance economy” is why the US needs FAR STRONGER LAWS at the very least to prevent the hidden collection, use, and sale of health data, including everything about our minds and bodies, unless we give meaningful informed consent.

This urgent topic, ie whether the US should adopt strong data privacy and security protections like the EU—will be debated at the 3rd International Summit on the Future of Health Privacy June 5-6 in DC (it’s free to attend and will also be live-streamed). Register at: www.healthprivacysummit.org

Re: Web Privacy Becomes a Business Imperative

New York Times article Web Privacy Becomes a Business Imperative by Somini Sengupta discusses web privacy affecting businesses’ bottom line. As Mozilla’s Chief Privacy Officer says in the article:

“They’re asking for a different level of privacy on your service,” he said, “You have to listen to that. It’s critical to your business.”

Finally. More Internet companies are realizing the truth behind what PPR has said all along: products and services that don’t offer real privacy and security don’t fly with consumers. While some still may debate the exact meaning of “privacy,” what we consistently see is that consumers want to have control over what happens with their data. It’s about time we start listening to what the public wants and honor everyone’s right to be let alone as they see fit.

Who is tracking YOU?

On the Internet ALL your health searches about scary and stigmatizing illnesses, all searches or purchases of books on health, and all searches or purchases of medications and devices are tracked and sold.

It is impossible to search for health information privately via Google, etc.

Health websites take massive advantage of Americans’ powerful expectations that ALL healthcare providers put their interests and their privacy first—expectations which come from the traditional doctor-patient relationship and the ethics that have governed Medicine for 2,400 years (derived from the Hippocratic Oath).

Americans are not yet ready to believe that every aspect of healthcare in the US is profit-driven, rather than driven by the ethical codes all health professionals swear to at graduation: the promises to “do no harm” and to “guard their secrets”.

Americans are not yet ready to believe that Wall Street has taken over Medicine—and that instead of guaranteeing the strong health privacy rights Americans have under the law, Wall Street erases our rights to ensure shareholder profits.