How was your vacation?

(to get in the mood for this posting you need to repeat the title of the article in a deeply sinister voice, you will understand why at the end of the posting ..)

At the moment I am working on a project for Rathenau institute relating to privacy and the information you can find on individuals on the Internet. I was talking to a friend who works for social security in a large city and he said that the Internet is a source they often use to get information about people.

One of the sites they are using is www.wieowie.nl. This is a service that queries information about a person from all kinds of sources: google, yahoo, schoolbank, hyves and others. But it also finds telephone numbers, the tags that relate to that person, photos and document that are associated with you.

It turns out that they regularly find information about people that points towards fraud. For example somebody who is asked by someone else how her vacation was in Mexico. At the social security service they for example can see that that person did not register for a vacation. Result can be that the person is invited to come to city hall to show her passport that may have a Mexican visa stamp in it….

This is an example of a new type of transparency that is becoming more and more pervasive in society. And it is not just the information you yourself put on the Internet. In the example above it can also be some of you friends discussed on hyves a story that you told them about your vacation.

In a way I think transparency is good. It can help us be more authentic. But it can also be a dangerous instrument when people trust too much on information that may be wrong or even distorted on purpose. As society we need to think about how to deal with this type of transparency.

Happy Holidays!

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