Friday, July 02, 2010

Superhighway To Hell, by Stephen Saunders

Warning to the wise - this is where the present world of consumerism is headed!

"A phenomenon called "search inversion".... Today's Internet search function morphs from being a useful tool for users to search for products to an essential tool for companies to search for customers.

"User profiles become assets owned by the companies that developed them or, eventually, commodities to be bought and sold on "profile markets" or "identity exchanges"--the digital DNA equivalents of the financial and commodities exchanges on which stocks, oil, and gold are traded.

"Companies like Google and Facebook are pioneers in the areas of profiling and search inversion, but the Internet's nature (distributed, standards-based, open to all) makes it easy for others to follow their lead. Any Web company that owns servers storing user information can participate in profiling, as can any network service provider providing the pipes....

"By the middle of this decade, profiling will be commonplace. By the end of 2020 it will be the basis of a new industry, the Outernet, which in economic terms will have outgrown the commercial value of the Internet itself.

"The most immediate casualty of profiling is the hallmark of the 20th century Internet: anonymity (aka user privacy). The Internet of this century will be defined by identity....

"This is just the beginning. Let us sally forth, my friends, in our Chinese-made publishing time machine, to the year 2029. It is now exactly 40 years after the invention of the World Wide Web. The Internet has completed its metamorphosis to Outernet, a transformation marked by two tipping points that occur within a few years of each other:

"First, the Internet's primary role changes to that of surveillance network. The devices connected to the Internet whose function is to observe users via sensors, probes, spyware, and cameras now outnumber the devices that users employ to look at Internet content. The Internet is watching you.

"Second, the Internet profiling industry has matured. For the first time, the monetary value of the profiles about users exceeds the value of the digital information (music, television, gaming, business data) stored on the Internet itself.

"At this point, the Internet has become a sophisticated targeting system for companies to sell "stuff" to consumers, for governments to keep track of citizens, and for law enforcement to track illicit activity. In commercial terms, it will be an Internet where the user becomes the used."

(For the complete article, see

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