Joel Stein has a lengthy piece on data mining on Time, in which he describes a lot of the data mining that goes on these days and interviews a number of people in the privacy community. Discussing the “creep factor,” Stein writes:
“We have this feeling of being dogged that’s uncomfortable,” Calo says, “but the risk of privacy harm isn’t necessarily harmful. Let’s get serious and talk about what harm really is.” The real problem with data mining, Calo and others believe, arises when the data is wrong. “It’s one thing to see bad ads because of bad information about you. It’s another thing if you’re not getting a credit card or a job because of bad information,” says Justin Brookman, the former chief of the Internet bureau of the New York attorney general’s office, who is now the director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit group in Washington.
Russell Glass, the CEO of Bizo — which mines the fact that people are business executives and sells that info to hundreds of advertisers such as American Express, Monster.com, Citibank, Sprint and Google — says the newness of his industry is what scares people. “It’s the monster-under-the-bed syndrome,” Glass says. “People are afraid of what they really don’t understand. They don’t understand that companies like us have no idea who they are. And we really don’t give a s — -. I just want a little information that will help me sell you an ad.” Not many people, he notes, seem to be creeped out by all the junk mail they still get from direct-marketing campaigns, which buy the same information from data-mining companies. “I have a 2-year-old daughter who is getting mail at my home address,” he says. “That freaks me out.”
Read more on Time.