John Battelle, the author of the 2005 book “The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture,” said AOL’s misstep, while unfortunate, could have a silver lining if people began to understand just what was at stake. In his book, he says search engines are mining the priceless “database of intentions” formed by the world’s search requests.
“It’s only by these kinds of screw-ups and unintended behind-the-curtain views that we can push this dialogue along,” Mr. Battelle said. “As unhappy as I am to see this data on people leaked, I’m heartened that we will have this conversation as a culture, which is long overdue.”
In John's post, he also reiterates this concern - and the fact that the dialog needs to begin. Working with a firm last year on digital identity (Falkin started by Rob Marano), the entire concept of a persons identity was not simply their Social Security number and bank accounts - but the "intentions" that a person has. Without taking the story to a hysterical level, can it be perceived that your inner thoughts are available for analysis? Especially since the common-person perception is that what you do in front of your computer is private? When you can determine the identity of a person with three months of search query information - what do you think happens with google's incredible cache of information that extends from the search queries you submit - to the sites you visit (that have google AdWords installed) - to the sites that are being supported by google's free Analytics service (watching where people come from and what they do within the sites - and improve the AdWords performance).
As I mentioned yesterday, consider the breadth of information found within the google database. And with their advances in data storage and archiving, and couple that with the ability to map these intentions via a hashing algorithm (simplifying the intentions by a meta-index) - you now have a highly refined set of information that could allow google (or any agency) the ability to discern your intention. And, taking it slightly further - is this now allowing google to anticipate your needs - ina predictive fashion? Consider that the science of adaptive control, which focuses on understanding the constraints of variables within a dynamic system, is all about predicting and anticipating the optimal choice to allow for control. Extending that ability to human interaction on the web, with the many thousands of computers - are we not coming close to the processing power necessary for determining intention?