Sunday, August 26, 2012
All Your Metadata Shall Be In Water Writ
The power of the internet lies in its near-infinite mutability. It's an edifice of information being added to and sculpted by as many hands as there are eyes viewing it. Truly democratic and increasingly accessible, it will soon be the vector for most communication that takes place on our world. But its mutability is also a weakness, as so many great strengths are. The weakness arises from a lack of permanence: it is impossible to make an indelible mark. Lack of permanence! you say. Why, I can request 500 pages of data on file at Facebook, and the NSA is building a profile on me that includes every cookie I've ever been issued. True, but the data itself is impermanent. Vulnerable in a dozen ways to being rewritten, manipulated, retouched, softened, or otherwise reduced from a record to a falsification. The data we create today is not etched in stone but "writ in water." The benefits of this we have seen, and monumental they are, but soon we will know its danger, too.