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.

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