all bits considered data to information to knowledge


I know what you read last summer… And I know what you’re reading now

With proliferation of electronic reading devices we surrender many personal liberties we've taken for granted for so long: now it is possible not only to find what and when you bought a book but also whether you've read it, for how long, on what days of week, at what time, what drew your attention... As Wall Street Journal's article puts it "Your E-Book is reading You".

Convenience comes with many strings attached though. What would electronic equivalent of Bradbury's Farenheit 451 look like? The entire messy business of replacing hard-copy of newspapers and books detailed in Orwell's 1984 went away replaced by infinitely malleable bits and bytes. Nobody misses developing films - what about times when a photographic negative was a considered an irrefutable proof?

Personal reading experience becomes a raw material for data analysis, and I, for one, am rather uneasy with this brave new world. This adds to yet another piece of puzzle for constructing your personality on social networks, where people and organizations with BI savvy are mining your personal experiences in hopes to sell you ever more stuff (e.g. How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did) - or for some other, not always as benign, reasons.



Ethical limits of Business Intelligence

Intelligence of all kinds can be gleaned from the mounds of data accumulated from our daily interactions with the outside world such as business intelligence or social intelligence. It then can be used to manipulate our behavior to the benefit of the data collector/analyst.

Here is, for example,  how IKEA and Costco utilize information "to turn browsers into buyers, and making buyers to spend more". A new layout of the store floor or combination of sounds/lights/olfactory stimuli to put us in "buying mode", targeted advertising, mass customization based upon data collected from purchasing history, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+... For example:

"In research yet to be published, a University of Alberta team has proven that what we smell and hear affects what we buy: When a sample group smelled the relaxing scent of lavender, 77% wanted a soothing iced tea, but when the same group smelled the arousing aroma of grapefruit, 70% reached for an energy drink. When the researchers played Mozart’s Sonata in D Major at a slow tempo, 71% wanted iced tea, but when the piano piece was sped up, 71% wanted an energy drink — an exact reversal."

Where does "legitimate use" stop and "Brave New World"/"1984" take over?

Where is this limit after which these "insights into consumers" behavior become invasion of privacy?