Thursday, November 5, 2009

Internet 4.0: Out of the Stone Age (Second Draft)

(This is an enhanced version of the my earlier post with the results of your comments and my discussions with friends).
With the relatively rise of online social networks and it's uncontrolable availability to vulnerable users (children, teenager and even people with low or no technical background) exposed a huge privacy concerns for everyone. Your data that your putting on the internet are available one way or another to almost everyone. Along with web giants such as Google and Facebook keeping track of every click you make for either targeted services or anonymized purposes. And that made me ask one basic question:
Do they have the right to know all my internet behaviour ?
Lets first state some important definitions that we'll need.
My behaviour is what I the links I click on the internet to browse the web to check, read and edit free online content.
My service request is the link I click to ask some service provider to make something for me.
My main goal is to make my behaviour totally private (owned by me) and my services request authenticatable and both "anonyimizably" trackable (we don't won't google search to fail). So lets see how this can happen.
What I am proposing is an ID that's connected to the internet 24/7 where ever it is. This ID acts as a single point of access to your whole online life from your name, date of birth and picture to your browsing habits and computer and TV preferences to social security number and credit card number.
I guess such a device can have a lot of criticism so let's answer the ones I got so far one by one,
Browsing the Internet:
The major two issues that are of concern here are Behavioural data and Web Pages Personalization that is based on tracking such behavioural data. What's happening now that data about what EXACTLY I am doing on the internet is tracked one way or another by some service and if someone can put all this data together can know exactly my behaviour and use that data the way he wants or event sell it.
This data belongs to me so what I am suggesting here is that each individual behaviour data is processed online and the extracted information should be saved into his ID. That way as an internet baby with no data about you (no character built yet) your ID will start gaining some character using the data that's processed while you are surfing the internet.
As for personalization, a web advantage that we can't afford to lose, web sites can query you ID for the characteristics it's looking for. Standardizing those characteristics should help the spreading of those IDs and make using them easier. 
Shopping Online:
This activity is one basic example of a service request. Those services will need some kind of authentication so that we won't have fake IDs and impersonations with identity theft issues. Other services that will need authentication are location and country based services.
Facilitating such service will make online identity theft a more difficult job for hackers as it for thieves that that are trying to break into a secured house without the proper keys.
The need for a centralized state:
The previous point exposed a very essential issue that such a system will need to gain the trust of the users and the services providers. Having a centralized trusted centre for issuing and maintaining those IDs linking them to their true owners where you can renew and update you basic information. Also where you can track people with criminal records, bank records and other official and important records. That way service providers will be able to trust ID owners if they checked with clean records from that central point.
There are two rules that such a central point should follow, the first is having only the data needed to authenticate incoming IDs, it shouldn't contain data about their behaviour or services request. Think about it in the way the government keep track of social security numbers and driving licenses.
The second rule is having really secured links between that central point and service providers. Strict laws should be made for the violation of the terms of use of such links.
Using Multiple Devices (Extending the idea, a little):
I can imagine such a person carring such an ID and setting in front of his TV and immediately loads his TiVo programs without a click on the remote. Then, he moves toward his computer and it welcomes him while opening his front page. Then while surfing all the websites pops data and advertisement that are meant only for that person. Other websites that he never visited before use the character he already created to help him have a more personalized experience, helping him save time and money by poping only stuff that it knows he'll need.
Also that ID can start processing the data it has to extract information that a single behaviour monitor wouldn't have figured out.
Implementations suggested in "Privacy, Cost, and Availability Tradeoffs in Decentralized OSNs" such as having machines on the clouds or personal computers should work fine. But what I can imagine is a device as small as a flash drive that is connected to the internet through WiMax coverage and with all you data on it. That device have WiFi and Bluetooth cards to help it connect with different devices and a small processor to interact with all that environment around it.
This system tries to map the world we already live in to the online world. We managed to have a very private real world and with the help of new technologies we're making it more secured and more private and yet leaving our online identities totally exposed. This system will need a lot of work to even come near being a reality but the technology needed is already here, all we need is to realize the value of our privacy and being identified as a single person online.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Getting over stone age of the internet: discovering agriculture and building homes

If you look at the current internet, giving its age and the type of problems it's facing, you can see clearly that we're still in the middle of, what I'd like to call it, the stone age of the internet.
We're talking about a technology that's only 30 years old, it has yet a lot of potentials to be discovered and drawbacks and problems to be solved. The problem I want to expose here is privacy. I'd like to compare the real stone age (5000 years B.C.) to the internet stone age (1985 to 2009).
The stone age:
During the stone age humans lived in the forests and took cover in caves from the rain, they lived in tribes that shared the same interest and cared for each other's interests. Communication between those tribes was almost impossible and they probably fought over everything (territory, food, women, etc). They slept right there in the open thinking that they are well protected that way. Invented some traps and protection systems to protect them and maybe considered those who got eaten by predators just flows in the protection system they had and they probably had their engineers work on that flow. By the end of the stone age humans made some of the most important discoveries in the history and those were agricultural and building homes. Sick of being exposed to all what nature had hidden for them, they built homes to protect themselves from the predators that intentionally meant to hurt them and other occasional incidents such as rain. Building homes close together they formed cities with a great building in the middle of the city forming the city hall. That city hall is were messengers from other cities went to communicate with that city.
The internet stone age:
I think by now the analogy should be a little bit clear. We're now creating profiles leaving them exposed one some public servers with some security and privacy measures that are broken and patched all the time. Leaving the data of our teenagers exposed to all kind of e-predators and think by having that easily breakable privacy measures we're doing our best. Also we're scattering our information amongst different social networks and services that can't really agree on a way to communicate and that most of the time are fighting over the money coming from the ads business.
We're basically making one "Ahmed Saeed" appear to be 5 different persons because he has 5 accounts on different social networks and services. And by that we're wasting the precious data that can be inferred by knowing that those 5 men are basically the same (Google is working on that but it's just another patch). On the other hand, this "Ahmed Saeed" is leaving his data out there for people he don't know to use in all sorts of ways.

I guess we're close to getting out of the internet stone age as the work suggested in "Privacy, Cost, and Availability Tradeoffs in Decentralized OSNs" published in Sigcomm's WOSN 2009 suggests what's near to discovering homes in the stone age. Probably over time we'll start building homes that are sustainable and reliable to provide us with the online cities we all dream of.

Trying to order the new Ubuntu CD and that's what I get

Demand for Ubuntu CDs is very high, and we're trying to ensure that we have enough CDs for those who really need one. We've noticed that you've already received CDs of several previous Ubuntu releases. You can help us ensure the continued availability of Ubuntu CDs by

* upgrading to the new release without a CD
* downloading your own CD for free
* becoming an Ubuntu member by contributing to Ubuntu, and thereby becoming eligible for more CDs

Thanks for your support of Ubuntu!

I am sure they are trying to do there best but my point of view that people with longest history with Ubuntu are the best candidates to share the CDs with others. Maybe I am wrong but I just want a CD :(