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Google, the Semantic Web, and Privacy

Just read a great piece on Google by Paul Ford called “How Google beat Amazon and Ebay to the Semantic Web”, which essentially describes how Google could – in theory – piece together the semantic web through currently available technologies. I got there through someone’s Blog, but damned if I can remember whose. Although that does sound like a Bloglines challenge of sorts – see I can reconstruct my path from the link trail…but no, too much to do.

Anyway, his notion of Google outflanking Amazon and Ebay is itself an interesting one – not to mentioned delivered in fine humorous fashion – but it’s not, to me anyway, the most interesting implication as I think the semantic web described therein needs a slight dose of the architecture of participation. More on that in a later post.

The bigger concern for me here is privacy. Privacy – like its close friend security – often comes at the expense of convenience. And while it may well be inconvenient to have separate marketplaces for commercial and second hand goods, there may counter-intuitively be some value in it as well. I’m not sure I want Amazon – or anyone else – to have a consolidated view of my identity and purchasing patterns. Acxiom is bad enough. I’m just as happy to keep eBay, Amazon, and Google separate. Particularly given the decision handed down here.

I’m all for the semantic web, mind you. In fact a semantic web type construction called a policy engine is a key service identified in an upcoming compliance publication of ours. But the implications must be carefully thought out. I trust Google, but absolute power as they say…

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