Monday, May 25, 2009

It's OK, we're co-related

In responding to my "violent agreement" post, Kim Cameron goes a long way towards beginning to define the parameters for correlating data and transactions. I'd urge all of you to jump into the discussion.

But - and it's a huge but - we need to be very careful of the terminology we use.

Kim starts: "Let’s postulate that only the parties to a transaction have the right to correlate the data in the transaction, and further, that they only have the right to correlate it with other transactions involving the same parties."

Which would mean, as I read it, that I couldn't correlate my transactions booking a plane trip, hotel and rental car since different parties were involved in all three transactions!

But he goes on to say: "...the individual would have the right to correlate data across all the parties with whom she interacts."

So which is it - do the parties have the right to create correlations among all partners, or not? Remember that, at least according to US law, a corporation is treated as "an individual."

In the end, it isn't the correlation that's problematic, but the use to which it's put. So let's tie up the usage in a legally binding way, and not worry so much about the tools and technology.

In many ways the internet makes anti-social and unethical behavior easier. That doesn't mean (as some would have it) that we need to ban internet access or technological tools. It does mean we need to better educate people about acceptable behavior and step up our policing tools to better enable us to nab the bad guys (while not inconveniencing the good guys).

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Correlation isn't universally bad. Especially if it is done on our behalf. E.g. payment card industry monitors transactions for unusual transaction. That's good.

That same industry selling that information to someone else, not so good.

The point is correlation goodness/badness depends on the situation or context. How do you know if it is good/bad if you have no declarations of intent or constraints on usage defined?
Context, as Phil said, is EVERYTHING!
I think the problem is one of persepective and how it is governed. Taking your example of the plane trip, hotel and rental car transactions, I as the common thread should be able to link them, but the vendors should not, which is what I think Kim is trying to say.

Basically, I should be able to control and consolidate all of my transactions as _I_ choose to group them.

I've got more thoughts but they're not together yet.
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