Apple has obtained a patent for “identity pollution,” according to the Atlantic.
I am of not just two, but a great many minds about this. (OK, admit it: you always knew I was schizophrenic.)
First off, I wonder how in the world they got a patent for this. OK, maybe there isn’t much in the way of prior art, but the idea can’t possibly be called “non-obvious.” Even before the rise of “social networking” I was prompting friends to use my “loyalty” shopping cards, even the ones that just gave discounts and didn’t get you points. I have no idea what those stores think I buy, and I don’t much care, but I do know that they have very little about my actual shopping patterns.
In our advice to the general population in regard to Internet and online safety in general, we have frequently suggested a) don’t say too much about yourself, and b) lie. Isn’t this (the lying part) exactly what Apple is doing?
In similar fashion, I have created numerous socmed accounts which I never intended to use. A number of them are simply unpopulated, but some contain false information. I haven’t yet gone to the point of automating the process, but many others have. So, yet another example of the US patent office being asleep (Rip-Van-Winkle-level asleep) at the technological switch.
Then there is the utility of the process. Yes, OK, we can see that this might (we’ll come back to the “might”) help protect your confidentiality. How can people find the “you” in all the garbage? But what is true for advertisers, spammers, phishers, and APTers is also true for your friends. How will the people who you actually *want* to find you, find the true you among all the false positives?
(Here is yet another example of the thre “legs” of the security triad fighting with each other. We have endless examples of confidentiality and availability working against each other: now we have confidentiality and integrity at war. How do you feel, in general, about Apple recommending that we creating even more garbage on the Internet than is already there?)
(Or is the fact that it is Apple that is doing this somehow appropriate?)
OK, then, will this work? Can you protect the confidentiality of your real information with automated false information? I can see this becoming yet another spam/anti-spam, CAPTCHA/CAPTCHA recognition, virus/anti-virus arms race. An automated process will have identifiable signs, and those will be detected and used to ferret out the trash. And then the “identity pollution” (a new kind of “IP”?) will be modified, and then the detection will be modified …
In th meantime, masses of bandwidth and storage will be consumed. Socnet sites will be filled with meaningless accounts. Users of socmed sites will be forced to spend even more time winnowing out those accounts not worth following. Socnet companies will be forced to spend more on storage and determination of false accounts. Also, their revenues will be cut as advertises realize that “targetted” ads will be less targetted.
Of course, Apple will be free to create a social networking site. They already have created pieces of such. And Apple can guarantee that Apple product users can use the site without impedance of identity pollution. And, since Apple owns the patent, nobody else will be able to pollute identities on the Apple socnet site.
(And if Apple believes that, I have a bridge to sell them …)