Spock is Spooky

Dec
15
2007

Street Art

Get the impression these days that we may have just overstep the mark with the number of social networking sites that are appearing. Now I’m not going out looking for them, but it just seems that they are appearing at the rate of about 2-3 a day at the moment.

Who has time to check them out, setup the account, workout if it’s worth investing time in importing your social network into site by the old hunt and gather the names method; I would never trust them to go collect the information for me. I usually bookmark them and move on. So every now and again (maybe 1 in 20) I will signup.

Now Spock is such a social networking site. I signed up with Spock in early beta and I did what I usually do, secure your alias and let the site account just languish until I’m ready to have to good look at the site.

The Concern

Fast forward about 6 months. I came back to Spock I see that I’m now a mass murdering, famous Hollywood movie producer that freelances in web design. So my name is like Joe Smith, a very common one. You see Spock is collecting all the information it can from scraping other social networking site, blogs, media releases, news sites and the like. This means that Spock builds a profile on you, sometime with a picture supplied by others before you have ever signed up with the site.

As you can image this can lead to sorts of concerns. Frankly I’m not the first on the web community to raise questions over Spock as Myles Eftos discusses. This concern is not that new either, as ValleyWag (August 2007) thinks Spock is creepy too.

It’s not just the aggregation of the publicly available information on you into one place that makes this site spooky. It’s the verification, or lack there of. This is like an automated Wikipedia gone mad. Try and add your aliases to your name, it will not let you. Say you don’t want your real picture online, but use an alternative graphic, it will be deleted. It seems that the community can vote up a picture, a comment, a news article that is totally false. What recourse does a person have have about this spread of misinformation. It seems not much if they are out voted. They have your information, but you don’t have the control.

Have We Lost Our Way

What the hell is going on here. isn’t this meant to be about the correct information overcoming the false crap that is usually spun. It seems Spock is not out to do that. So what happens if you want your account deleted, or you want the information removed. Has anyone considered that. Doesn’t seem a way to do that either.

Nice idea, but despite or maybe because of the long list of prestigious staff this site it is just missing the marker. Who is controlling the data they are collecting? Should we trust them? What are they really doing with it.

I have had to setup an account and clarify and ensure that my digital identity was intact. Why, well I live in a digital world where the truth can easily be misinformation. Did I really want to setup the account, no not really, I’m getting a little tired of new sites with very little economic consideration for their own livelihood, that on sell the audience demographic information.

But, where is all this going. Are we over stepping the mark, okay you can say it’s all publicly available, and if you put yourself on the web you have to expect it and all that. But we all have distinct lines in the sand.

Should this type of site be allowed to aggregate the material without our permission and have others add to the information as well. It’s an ethics thing a suppose, just because we can do it should we do it. For me it’s just way to spooky.

This is one time I don’t want it to live long and prosper.

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15 comments

  1. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – this has one to far.

    It’s my information, and unless I explicitly give you my information, your can’t do anything with it. What makes Spock worse is that, as the owner of the information – YOU can’ update or request it to be deleted.

    Unacceptable.

  2. That site is definitely spooky and is a timely reminder to be careful what you sign up for. Lets hope as you say it does not survive.

  3. @Sue the worst bit is you don’t have to sign up to be listed. Bet you are on there. It just gathers your information of the other sites and displays, without permission.

  4. While I completely agree that Spock is creepy and questionable in virtue, I don’t buy that they need to ask your permission to harvest info that *you* have already made public via LinkedIn profiles, web sites, etc. It’s all stuff that is already “out there” in full, Google-able public view.

    Siple rules of the internet road- if you dont want it known in the public space, dont put it on a web site. Cause once it is out there, you cannot reel it in.

    The creep factor is here you don’t seem to have much “control” over the profile, and the best hope is Spock will just be beamed to a distant part of the universe by sheer inattention to it.

    The other end around you can do is to cloud yourself with obvious misinformation. With my warines of the Facebook creepiness factor, I warped my profile- my birthday is April 1, I graduated with a PhD from Harvard in 195 (when I was about -30 years old), and I was once CEO of Microsoft.

    But bottom line, no one *needs* your permission to publish information *you* have released on the net.

  5. This is what you get for littering the internet with your personal details. You have no one to blame but yourself. If you didn’t want something like this to happen you should have had the foresight to keep your private information private.

    Also, do you proof read anything you write? Every post is littered with typos, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and huge non sequiturs.

  6. Alan and Todd, as I mentioned in my blog post, it isn’t the information that I post that is an problem – it’s the stuff that others post that gets linked to your acocunt.

    For example – the photo that is linked in my Spock account wasn’t uploaded or taken by me. The way that spock presents it, it looks like I did – this is the where the REAL problem lies.

  7. @Alan, @Todd consider that the information that you have placed on the web is picked up by Spock. This you want to happen. But you have crossed a few people, and they upload pictures and information about you that is open to slander.

    Surely you want so right of validation. Why should you have to open an account to be able to edit the details. Spock is forcing people to use the service. This leaves a very BAD feeling with all concerned. Not a good business model for the longer term.

  8. Myles and Gary, this is hardly any different to what Google does. I can appreciate that it is aggregating content into one area (and calling that area ‘you’), but aside from that it does nothing more than use freely available information that yourself or your friends have uploaded to the web (unless you have numerous enemies with cameras and a penchant for spying).

    I realise that you are concerned that ‘you’ are not being accurately represented, but unfortunately that is what happens when you participate in a public forum. Some members of the audience will get the real you, while others will be swayed by hearsay and rumors. This has been true for as long as man has been speaking publicly, all the internet has done is to improve the collective memory (and archive it).

    I am not saying it is a good thing but rather a certain thing. I suggest taking less photos and keeping them privately instead of sharing them with the world (and instruct your friends to do the same – I personally requested no one upload a photo of me to the internet, and my friends have respected that wish).

  9. @todd, I understand where you are coming from, but I have been under the radar before (for 8 years) and it didn’t do much good. Not discussing the details so don’t ask.

    The problem with Spock is the aggregation, pure and simple. In Google you have to collect the information and repackage it. Spock takes Zoominfo.com one step beyond.

    Mind you one can put information out on the web and still ensure a good deal of your life is private and not for public collection by the likes of Spock. You just have to have defined block of information you are willing to replicate and other stuff you are not simple.

  10. Yes but that simply confirms my position that this is inevitable. Are you proposing to ban any and all aggregation? Obviously you aren’t, but short of that the only solution is to actively filter what personal information gets out and what doesn’t.

    Social networking is fine if you don’t care about the privacy of your data. If you do care about it, you can’t actively participate then cry foul when someone uses the data in a way that you don’t like.

  11. @Todd I only care about the privacy of my data within a sandbox I control. As you say filtering what gets out and what doesn’t.

    An example of the misuse of Spock is the publication of an email address on Spock that has never been used with any web site before.

    Depending on where the information is coming from it should be moderated by the owner of the account if the information is provided by a third party. Otherwise if its not public, it should not be collected. To do so could open them up to legal action.

    Social networking can be constructed on a bed of false information and persona’s. It’s not unusual for people to do this. Keeping the “lie” consist over several sites.

    You should be able to have some redress if the information is used to the extent that it starts to effect your social or professional life. Besides the courts.

  12. “An example of the misuse of Spock is the publication of an email address on Spock that has never been used with any web site before.”

    So where did Spock pull this email address from? I must have existed somewhere on the web beforehand or it wouldn’t have been aggregated.

    “Otherwise if its not public, it should not be collected.”

    Correct me if I am wrong but I don’t think Spock collects data that isn’t public in the sense that it is widely available on the internet.

    “To do so could open them up to legal action.”

    Uh oh, E-lawyer.

  13. @todd. Simple other people have added the private information. This is the bit I don’t like at all.

    Anyway Spock is moving towards forcing online social networking in a way like face(spam)book.

  14. Gary,
    You said in the beginning- ‘Spock is such a social networking site’, I think it’s not correct, but later I see you have a very clear understanding of what Spock stands for and how it works- ‘This means that Spock builds a profile on you, sometime with a picture supplied by others before you have ever signed up with the site’. Fine!

    it’s true, if Spock wants to be a Web/ Web 2.0 aggregator + Search motor, it needs to do the following tree things:
    1) “generate” a profile from several related (from the point of view of Spock) pages that seem to represent a person. So just suppose that Name+Surname is a person, since this Mr. Name+Surname has a profile on MySpace let’s say.
    2) Taking this “generated” person, on the second step of Web/ Web 2.0 references professing, Spock fills the profile by tags, pictures and web pages, that could be PROBABLY related to the person “generated”.

    and when it’s done- what is expected?
    3) that the community and the user that recognizes and claims its profile, has the to finished the job. Otherwise the information will remain marked as “supposed by Spock Robot”.

    So if a person itself is not joining Spock to correct the information in “his” profile, the only hope for the profile to be correct, it’s if somebody from community find it worth wasting time with it and dedicate some time to checking and cleaning its data. This person could be a friend of you, somebody who just knows about your existence, or just another Spock user who’s checking profiles playing with searches let’s say by some specific keywords.

    I think this is the most probable scenario of the time life of a Spock Profile of a person processed by Spock software.

    I think it correlates a lot with that you said later- “It seems that the community can vote up a picture, a comment, a news article that is totally false”. Sure, that’s why it’s expected that the owner will join and vote down the incorrect tags, pictures, articles etc. If the “crazy community” πŸ˜† enjoying its social life have already voted positively for some item that are not incorrect- there is always an option to flag any item on Spock. Just say it’s incorrect, and the “Spock Corps” will take care of this your claim.

    And I can’t agree with what you say later- “They have your information, but you don’t have the control”. It’s 100% opposite, how could you say that, man? πŸ™‚ Look at ppl.com, etc there are tons of People Search Engines available, that exist for ages, and yes, those 1-st generation People search engines did not allow you to join and to take control of your Digital Identity.
    Spock has made an additional step towards being more people friendly- Spock is 2.0, so you may join and the community may disagree with the Search Crowler! Who could expect this to happen when the early ppl.com started to appear?
    So, it’s for sure not like you stated, I am sorry to repeat it, probably you did not have any previous experience with People Search Engine of the first generation- so try to think about Spock from this point of view, as about the evolution of People Search Engine concept, towards Web 2.0. What you will get? SPOCK? πŸ™‚

    And so the rest of your article I see was written under the same false influence of the idea that Spock controls your data and you not.
    I’ve just checked your Spock profile Gary- it seems to be quite correct- isn’t it? I think as any community project, Spock need some time to verify it all. You could help to the process in being to make it quicker, if you would join and contribute. But if you prefer to stay away and watch- so you should give some time to the community. Isn’t it clear and isn’t it the common experience of any self-organizing 2.0 community?

    Then you did it, you’ve joined Spock and corrected your on-line Identity. Congrats, man πŸ™‚
    I want to repeat that you could never do this with “ppl.com” and similar projects (disclaimer- I have nothing against ppl.com, I mean under them a 1-st generation of PPL search- where you do not have control of your profile).
    Then look- wink.com is doing the same as Spock, didn’t you note it on their Home Page: “Take Control: Claim and edit your profile to control what’s shown when people search for you.”

    I think this is just an evolution of the search idea. The evolution in two directions- you can claim and clean your data, + you can participate in the others’ data definition.
    You may still not like this… but it’s the future of the Web. The Web has evolved to Web 2.0 and now Web 2.0 is becoming Open Social Web. the next step for it is towards Semantic Social Web- so why should Search Engines be blocked with Googling/page indexing and keywords extraction? Why the community couldn’t participate? in fact it could and it does.

    Just a final comment- my personal experience with Social Web is also the one of Scientific Researcher on the field AI (distributed knownedge management, knownedge sharing, semantic web etc)- 5 years ago I was researching about the things that only today are on the pages of tech savvy bloggers πŸ™‚
    and that time nobody could predict that the Web 2.0 will change it all- also to postpone the Semantic Web revolution.
    I think Web 2.0 is a King. and it can probably change everything we’re used to. so the only way for us to stay tuned is to follow the web trends, know where is it all going to, to control our Digital Online Presence. And the projects like Spock will also evolve. Today the Spock 1.0 is just the first attempt to do People Search in a 2.0 way. I am sure the next generation of Spock will be something really cool! and then I dream but I hope we’ll arrive to the Social Semantic Web, which is a mix of Web, Web 2.0 and Semantic knowledge representation for automated reasoning/ mapping/ etc decision making- quite important for SEARCH function.

    Kind Regards,
    Andrey Golub- find me on Spock, it’s easy:
    http://www.spock.com/Andrey-Golub

  15. @Andre, Thanks for the comment. The main concern (and this may have changed) is that profiles are generated from information that maybe incorrect. Now that can be a problem if you are not aware of Spock and have joined up. There is a time investment. Spock is forcing you to maybe have to correct the faulty or misleading information. You may not have the time to do this. But it’s a case of Spock has gathered the information of even “low profile web people” and is in a way strong arming you into signing up and claiming your profile.

    This is the aspect at its core that I don’t like.

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