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An important privacy question


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An important privacy question
Topic: MemeStreams 11:32 pm EST, Jan 30, 2003

Please read and rerecommend. I want this to get as much coverage on the site as possible, and I want feedback.

Currently the privacy policy says that your reputation tables are private. This reflects the fact that I think what you read ought to be your own business.

However, what you recommend is not exactly the same as what you read, and this is reflected in the reputation data. When you recommend something you are telling the site that you like it. Telling the site implies that you don't mind the site knowing. In fact, you want the site to know. If I do a little digging I can see who you got an article from, directly. This is a bit of an oversite. Something that can be "matured" out of the code. Thats one direction to go in from here. Keep the reputation data as private as possible.

However, if I monitor the site, and I see a certain person recommend an article, and then you rerecommend it, I'll know where you got it from. I do this often enough, in an automated fashion, for long enough, and I'll get a pretty good understanding of who you are reading. The site can't protect you from this. By recommending articles you are making them public. By making them public, you are giving up some of your privacy.

The only way to truely protect the fact that you are reading someone's recommendations is to never recommend their recommendations. They will still show up in the agent, but this information, I think, is private and ought to stay that way.

However, and as I've hopefully illustrated, the recommendations are public in a very real way. What I want to ask the site is if the recommendation DATA ought to be public too.

The reason I want to ask you this is because Rattle has assembled another visualization. This visualization is interactive. You can see a graph of the people who are highly connected to you, click on their names, and see a graph of the people who are highly connected to them, and so on.

Right now this data is amusing but not all that rich. There are about 15 people who regularily post to the site, and they hold all the reputation capital. Everyone's graphs look pretty similar, because we are all really recommending content from the same 15 people, even those of us who don't often recommend content and who aren't often read.

This is going to change.

As this site scales, clusters are going to form. I think the one that currently exists will always exist, but there will be others. People will begin to have different perspectives on the data, based on their interests. Thats what this site is designed to do.

And as those different communities of interest begin to form, the maps of the reputation data rattle is developing will become richer, and you will be able to surf through MemeStreams via the reputation system, hopping from person to person in search of interesting ideas.

I think this is a very compelling feature set, and I want to enable it. But, I've promised to keep your reputation data private. All of it. This promise may not have been very well thought out, but I did make it. So I can only break it with your permission, and that is what I am asking for.

I want to publish your recommendation related reputation data. Your clickthrough related reputation data will stay private. What is published is the number of times you have rerecommended articles from another person on the site, in the form of a graph.

Its similar to the graph on the "Visualizing Memestreams" page, but it is labelled, and interactive.

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