spock – Strike 1

I have been keeping an eye on the people search website spock for a while. It being part of the new wave of web 2.0 projects that is trying to tie down peoples online identities with there real life carbon based fat asses. Their goal is to index people from various source on the Internet including LinkedIn, XING, Myspace, Friendster and Wikipedia.

While they have said they are committed to the privacy of their users, I was surprised to receive an e-mail from them this morning, one of the first I have received since I signed up at their website. This is the body of the e-mail :


As one of Spock’s newest users, I wanted to let you know about a cool search on Spock.

You can find out who Spock users think should be the top results for fun searches like Arrested for Drunk Driving.

Log onto Spock and check it out!

Have Fun!
The Spock Team

Now am I the only person that think it strange the one of the first communiques highlights such an invasion of privacy, drink driving while frowned upon is probably something that people would like to keep to them selves. While this search may be possible, for an emergent company like spock I would have thought they would stick with the warm and fuzzy functionality that is possible. A bit like the way bitTorrent is always sold as having legitimate applications (which it does, I downloaded Ubuntu 7.04 using it) the bulk of the applications would be considered illegitimate (That is an argument for the courts and the ISPs).

spock isn’t the only website getting in on the web 2.0 ability to connect with the real world. Another website to keep an eye on includes the sexual relationship database :

In an effort to better understand society’s interconnected nature, this database was created to serve as a repository for information regarding the sexual histories of individuals, across the world and throughout time.

which allows people to assign former sexual partners to any name they can find, though I am convinced that this is a hoax, though the company behind the website, world health optimization management or W.H.O.M. (?), only returns 4 hits on google… If it isn’t a hoax it will more than likely get spammed out of existence by warring teenagers making up who had sex with who (even though none of them are).

And finally polar rose, which I have covered before, that is developing facial image search technology so that individuals can be found all over the Internet. They however have been quite for a while and I’m still waiting to see the bulk of their work.

Polar Rose – Web Stalking 2.0

Web stalking, until now the purvue of clammy skinned, online geeks, is soon to get an web 2.0 upgrade. Polar rose, a startup company that is based in Sweden, have announced that they are entering the new phase of development and are preparing to unleash version 0.18 of their plugin for Firefox. For those that are not aware of this tool Polar Rose how to deploy a face scanning technology where they can link faces found all over the internet. While, to be fair, on their web site that they are working towards preserving the privacy of people who do not wish to be found. It is hard to imagine how to re-bottle this genie once it gets out and into the hands of less magnanimous people.

While there are probably many nefarious things that could happen. It will make taking a mental health day a little more demanding as you have to make sure you don’t have your picture taken and uploaded while your supposed to be laid up in bed. Already in a constantly connected world this is happening. In March of this year, 6 New Zealander students were busted in their school uniform at the Boobs on Bikes parade when they were supposed to be on their lunch break. They were lucky to only end up with detention when there photgraph was beamed around the world.

For now I am getting a robots.txt tattoo on my forehead and hope that works.

The woes of web 2.0

Yo ho Yo ho A pirates life for me!
Originally uploaded by 0range County Girl.

The rise of web 2.0 has been an amazing thing. I wish it was around when I was a teenager, however in some ways its just as well it wasn’t. Working in a technical arena I have become very aware of maintaining a distinction between your professional identity and online interaction. Googling someones name is de rigour these days and there are stories of companies googling prospective new employees. This is turning out to be some what of a problem for generation 2.0 that have posted portions of their life that seemed a good idea at the time but has come back to haunt them, take the story of Stacy Snyder for example :

College Sued Over “Drunken Pirate” Sanctions

She, for better or worse, posted a picture of herself posing with a pirate hat and drinking from a plastic cup with the caption “Drunken Pirate” all harmless fun. That is until she was supposed to graduate from teaching college. According to the TSG “Despite good grades and solid performance evaluations, Snyder claims that school officials improperly denied her a bachelor of science in education degree and a teaching certificate” this article goes on to say “A university official told her that the photo was “unprofessional” and could have offended her students if they accessed her MySpace page.”

While this is terrible we are only going to see more of this in the future. This case is a little simpler than it will be in the future, in this case it was her own fault, she posted the picture of herself to MySpace so ultimately she put up the picture and also had the ability to take it down any time she wanted (and I’m sure now she wish she did) it was also easily connected to her as it was her MySpace page linked to her professional name.

The more problematic cases are when your mates take pictures of you during your hedonistic youthful excursions (one of the reasons why I’m glad digital cameras weren’t really around when I was in University, phew!) and they post their pictures of which you may have little or no control. While these pictures maybe as hard to find as a specific leaf in a forest new applications like polar rose face scanning technology might be the google of face search.

All it would take is a one positive hit for your face and a pass through flickr, MySpace, zooomr and all the other web 2.0 services and your online life could be laid bare for a prospective future employer.

As in physics for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction, a recently setup company ReputationDefender have realised there is a business model in helping new minted adult clean up their past, wired covered this in July of 2006 :

Delete Your Bad Web Rep

They describe ReputationDefender work :

“Any web citizen willing to pay ReputationDefender’s modest service fees can ask the company to seek and destroy embarrassing office party photos, blog posts detailing casual drug use or saucy comments on social networking profiles.”

It may be too late for Stacy Snyder, will maintaining your digital online identity accompany a conversation a parent has with a pre-pubescent child before they have the parent filters taken off the family computer. It will certainly be interesting as more and more computer savvy kids start coming through the system over the next few years and to see the woes of their past return to haunt them.