At the time of writing this posting, I am at a Starbucks. The one on mainstreet in Yardley, PA actually, while I am sipping of my White Chocolate Moccha, combined with a slice of Banana bread, which tasted absolutely nice. The reason why I am here and in the office is because of the third major blizzard that hits the area today. And since the Starbucks is close by, and offer free internet, I am just as productive here as I would be working at home, and any of those two is again a lot more productive than sitting in the office.
So, that is my identity today. Well, that means, what identity is that? Because I am dressed now in my shabby clothes, not caring about anything. Although I work also immediately with my normal work, I do not ‘feel’ like the person I am when I am actually sitting in the office. I am different actually at this moment, feel more relaxed, even because there was no morning commute today, and there will be none this afternoon. I feel more like the father, husband and my original self today, even though I am working.
When I go online here at the local coffee store, it if obviously clear that my access data is stored. They know where I live, and that I was online (and how long) in Yardley, PA, sipping coffee. One of the clients I work with stores also a lot of information about visitor behavior so that they could build up an identity profile, as so many companies do. And people are all tight up about that. The european commission declared that all the browsing information needs to be stored up to at least 2-6 months. So they know where you (if you are located in Europe) surf to, at what time, what you click on. They knowthe pervert you are when you are online late at night (and that I am 😉 ). But is this technically something we should really be scared about?
First of all. It is ridiculous that they store this information. It has absolutely no use. The money that this storage of data costs is so much more than hiring the best commando’s and private detectives to trace any terrorist they might be looking for. Or that the district DA can hire the most expensive lawyers for any of the trials against the worst criminals on the street.
But, even worse, the data is unsearchable, and to be honest, I don’t even think that the data is stored, or all is stored. The increase of information is disastrous every single day, that there is no way that that amount is even search-able while it is writing that much data. Technology nowadays is not able to handle deep data-mining on such amounts of data unless they know whose behavior to track. So, in that scenario, it is absolutely true that you do not have anything to fear if you did not do something wrong.
Behavior data is fun when it is new, when you see the first data and reports adding to your database. But it gets to be a bore. I also run a photo studio and we allow aspiring models to register in our model registry if they would like to work with us. In the beginning it is mighty interesting to think you have more contact information about beautiful women that you hoped you could date during your high school years, but when you have so much, it is not that special anymore. It is just information. Like how people with a lot of money think about money; ‘it is just money’. People who do not have it, think it is more special than it really is.
But if this data is so unsearchable, why even store it? The client I was talking about earlier stores information about salaries, household, vacations, movie preferences. But they never pulled a single report of it. The thought was to build up a solid behavior and identity profile, but the information is simply useless.
Because people are not one identity. You might have one name, and (probably) one address, but you are more than that. You are a family person, a business official, a father, a son, a child, a grownup all at the same time. When I deal with people at work I can be hard and ruthless, and while when I am at home I am completely another person.
I read the dutch Donald Duck, Money, Entrepeneur, National Geographic and Penthouse. Well, draw a profile on that dr. Freud. I read dutch Literature, Shakespear, Stephen King, Michael Crighton. I visit about 30-40 websites a day, mostly IT related, write a blog, deal with broadcasting and media companies, run a photo studio, am an it-developer in both .Net and Flash, and a Photoshop, Illustrator, Print and online design specialist. Here, you get all this information for free.
So, what it is really about is, for corporations, it is hardly the effort and absolutely not worth the time to store user profile information besides the information that is absolutely useful; when are they on your site and what are they doing there. Don’t try to know too much about your users, it is useless information.