I remember you…

There is a fine post at the new IT in Canada site on the data we leave behind.  To summarize Michael O’Neil,  there are big risks for young people that willingly post information on social networking sites — questionable pictures, funny posts and even videos of prankish behaviour — that will forevermore be stored, somewhere, on the ever-expanding Internet.  The impact of one’s (recorded) youthful exuberance on future job prospects, for example, could be significant.

This is not a new topic, but it is a good way of introducing a similar issue in a corporate context.  Imagine you are an intern attending a training session on some new technology at your company.  The company is keen to record, store and catalogue the training session for future use, so it has setup a video camera next to you at the back of the room.  Being young, smart and confident, you inevitably joke and inject sarcasm throughout the session, with jokes about senior management working their way into the audio track.  A few borderline unpolictically correct jokes are contributed, hilarious to those in the room.  Much fun was had!

A few days later, the video is stored and posted to the intranet.  The topic is not a hot one, so viewings are limited.  After a while, the video is surplanted by dozens of other rich media content, and it becomes buried on the site.  Eventually it is archived and forgotten.

Ten years pass.  You get promoted steadily.  You mature.  You’re ready for the big promotion and as your interviewer prepares for the interview, she scans the intranet using a powerful new search engine tool that not only can index rich media, but is sophisticated enough to identify an individual’s voice and facial characteristics to aid in the search.  It also has scanned archived data…

You can see where this is going.  Facebook, blog postings and social networking sites aren’t the only risks to impulsive youth.  Big Brother might not be watching, but the evidence of our past behaviour will always be there for him to find in the future.


Pudden ‘ead

There is an English expression, pudding head — pudden ‘ead if you’re from the Midlands — which is a way to comment on someone’s (low) intelligence.  With this definition in mind, let’s segway to Pudding Media, inventors of a new free phone service:

Pudding Media is building a platform that opens new advertising real estate, allowing consumers to immediately receive and respond to offers related to topics they are discussing.

And how can the consumer ‘respond to offers’?  By capturing your voice conversation, then using voice recognition to send you advertisements!  Head Pudden and CEO Ariel Maislos, gushes:

“Pudding Media’s platform marries telecommunications and advertising to benefit everyone.  Consumers gain a cool new dimension to their calls with more interesting, timely information and advertising that seamlessly bridge their virtual and real-world experiences; brands reach consumers with more targeted, relevant offers; and communications providers gain a new revenue stream.”

I’m not sure where to start with this one… Are we really so desperate to a) save a few bucks on already cheap phone rates and b) to get ‘targeted, relevant’ offers?  And does this desperation drive us to allow our phone conversations to be recorded? 

And how does this service ‘benefit everyone’?  It seems to me that benefit is to the advertisers and the phone companies, so I’m not sure how giving up a basic privacy right in exchange for advertising is a net benefit to me…

Curiously, Pudding Media’s privacy statement is silent on what would happen to those phone conversations.  In a New York Times article, Mr. Maislos — he with a background in military intelligence — claims that the calls are not kept and that the information is only used in real time.  Then he ads this gem:

Mr. Maislos said that during tests he noticed that the content had a tendency to determine conversations.

“The conversation was actually changing based on what was on the screen,” he said. “Our ability to influence the conversation was remarkable.”

Remarkable? I think scary is a better word.