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When Metadata Analytics Goes Awry

samzenpus posted about 9 months ago | from the six-degrees-of-separation dept.

Government 88

jfruh writes "When blogger Dan Tynan started seeing lots of Latvians in his LinkedIn People You May Know list, it was pretty funny, considering he'd never been to Latvia or ever met anyone from there. But now that shadowy spy agencies are using algorithms similar to LinkedIn's to see if we're terrorists, mistakes like this are a lot scarier. From the article: 'More than ever -- and online in particular -- who you know can be more important than who you are. In fact, who somebody thinks you know may be more important than who you are, especially if that somebody is a faceless government bureaucracy with limitless power to izjaukt savu dzvi (mess up your life).'"

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88 comments

Who is this Steve Lexus? (4, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 9 months ago | (#44326209)

I created a new gmail id to get price quotes from auto dealers. And now Google keeps telling me I might now someone named Steve Lexus and wants me to add him to my circles. Well, at least they seem to have filtered out Jane Honda and Palvayantheeswaran Toyota and Poponopoulous Mitsubishi.

Re:Who is this Steve Lexus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326325)

He's baaaaack.

Dude, you're getting a Lexus!

Re:Who is this Steve Lexus? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326427)

I don't have a facebook account, but a few months ago someone mistakenly sent me an invitation to join. I didn't think much and deleted that mail, since I didn't knew the person and couldn't even read it since it was in arabic. Ever since then facebook has been spamming once or twice a week with useless stuff about some arab dudes I never heard of. It's really annoying, I have no fucking idea who these people are, I've never set foot anywhere even remotely close to that part of the world, it's absolutely impossible that my name can be mistaken for an arab name (since I'm european). The email address where I get FB spam is lastname.firstname@gmail.com and is quite old, it was actually one of the first gmail accounts ever (I got invited by a friend that had been one of the initial 1000 gmail beta testers, so probably in the first three days or so); besides it's plastered all over the internet, simply googling it will tell you I'm a mid 30's vegetarian guy that wears contacts and has contributed to a number of open source projects, currently has a samsung galaxy note 2, has a 20 year interest in photography, loves fountain pens and geocaching, owns a ten year old beat up yamaha xjr1300 with a headlight patched with duct tape, rides a bike to work some 8 or 9 months of the year, does volunteer work at an animal shelter, plays a fender p bass through a traynor amp and is presently employed by the security division of a major telco in southern europe. None of this is a secret, in fact all of this appears in the first 100 hits on google, yet facebook seems to think I'm arab because of a single mistaken invitation.

Their incompetence earned them a free procmail rule.

Re:Who is this Steve Lexus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44327279)

And yet, you really don't even know if it came from Facebook.

Re:Who is this Steve Lexus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44328157)

Dude, please, give me some credit. I know how to check email headers.

Re:Who is this Steve Lexus? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 9 months ago | (#44327323)

Hmm, I can hear Agent Smith musing: "I see that you have a large number of 2 hop associates in the middle east. That doesn't look good, Mr Coward."

Re:Who is this Steve Lexus? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 9 months ago | (#44329293)

Their incompetence earned them a free procmail rule.

And put you in the terrorist watch list. Now bend over and prepare for your cavity search.

Re:Who is this Steve Lexus? (1)

fuckface (32611) | about 9 months ago | (#44329507)

Their incompetence earned them a free procmail rule.

Yeah, man! Fight the power, hit 'em where it hurts. Accept their email and use your electricity and CPU cycles to process it and pipe it to /dev/null. That'll show 'em!

Re:Who is this Steve Lexus? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 9 months ago | (#44331811)

May be Facebook knows you are not arab. But it gets paid to hose you with arabic ads. It probably knows your pain tolerance well too. It know how much it can pelt you with ads and make money before you decide to give up in disgust and go away from Facebook. May be by staying with Facebook even after being pelted with stupid ads for weeks, you tole Facebook algorithms, "ok this guys is good for at least two weeks ad blasts. May be more. Next time let us try three weeks". May be Facebook is not the chump here.

Re:Who is this Steve Lexus? (1)

bonehead (6382) | about 9 months ago | (#44332203)

Someone apparently didn't read the very first line of his post where he clearly stated that he does NOT have a facebook account.

Re:Who is this Steve Lexus? (2)

TarPitt (217247) | about 9 months ago | (#44326977)

I set up a Facebook account for my dog. Female, 5 years old so I figured that was 35 years old in human years. Neutered, so obviously single and never married.

Amazing the number of invites she gets from lesbian singles.

Re:Who is this Steve Lexus? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44329521)

I set up a Facebook account for my dog. Female, 5 years old so I figured that was 35 years old in human years. Neutered, so obviously single and never married.

Amazing the number of invites she gets from lesbian singles.

You did mention she's a bitch, right?

Basic problem with big data (2)

mtm10 (1530769) | about 9 months ago | (#44327511)

I have heard it said, perhaps apocryphally - If you look at the birth and death records for the State of Florida, you will conclude that a majority of people in that state are born Latino and die Jewish. Having reams of data is a start; but you must also have an accurate model.

Unfortunately true... (2)

wbr1 (2538558) | about 9 months ago | (#44326211)

Facebook and google+ may recommend possible people you may know, based off of degrees of separation, contact lists, etc. Most of the time I do not know any of the people they suggest.

If the NSA just reverses a similar algorithm, what happens when it says that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may know me? Especially if I have access to centrifuges.

Then I have to prove a negative, that I do not know this person. All their evidence points to the opposite. "He was in New York at the same time!" (BUT I LIVE THERE) "Doesn't matter". "Your fathe'rs, cousin's, uncle's former roomate went to Iran as an exchange student", etc, etc.

Re:Unfortunately true... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326251)

By the time you have to prove yourself, its already too late - the FBI has already planted a GPS tracker on your car, without a warrant. The proof that they're keeping America safe will come when they bust you buying a bag of weed from a totally unrelated person in a sting operation.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Unfortunately true... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326305)

No... the proof is in cold fjord's irrelevant link spam.

Re:Unfortunately true... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326379)

It's irreverent, not irrelevant. No honour given to nuttery.

Re:Unfortunately true... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44329617)

It's irreverent, not irrelevant. No honour given to nuttery.

Actually, his posts are usually relevant, sometimes respectful; just skewed to reflect well on his employer.

Re:Unfortunately true... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44327167)

So what?

He's probably guilty of something, and busting down the doors of a few extra people isn't a big deal.

God Bless Ronald Reagan!

Re:Unfortunately true... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44332143)

dafuq?!? It's somehow Reagan's fault that a black power socialist President, from the opposing party, happens to be pissing all over the Constitution?

Get a life!

(+1 nice troll, you pissed me off)

Re:Unfortunately true... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326353)

Especially if I have access to centrifuges.

Depends on what you mean by "centrifuges". That's just something that spins, right? Ever play spin the bottle? Oh wait, this is Slashdot, never mind then.

Re:Unfortunately true... (5, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | about 9 months ago | (#44326639)

Then I have to prove a negative, that I do not know this person. All their evidence points to the opposite. "He was in New York at the same time!" (BUT I LIVE THERE) "Doesn't matter". "Your fathe'rs, cousin's, uncle's former roomate went to Iran as an exchange student", etc, etc.

That's an excellent point - its the classic example of the Prosecutor's fallacy [wikipedia.org]. By definition anyone found through a meta-data search will have strong evidence against them. If someone was caught independently plotting terrorist activities then it would be valid to say that it would be very unlikely for them to have a lot of connections with known terrorists. Trawl through databases and find someone who has a lot of known connections and it doesn't say a lot. Its like if you have evidence that someone tampered with a lottery and won you could say the chances of winning are one in 14 million (or whatever), but if you look for people who have won then it is not valid to say that they must have cheated as the odds against winning are so low - because someone will through chance!

Re:Unfortunately true... (1)

superflippy (442879) | about 9 months ago | (#44328451)

It's also amusing the ads and pages FB recommends to me. They seem to think I'm a black latina (I'm white, non-Hispanic).

Latvians, Schmatvians (2, Funny)

cold fjord (826450) | about 9 months ago | (#44326221)

Time to worry about the real problems [clutchfans.net] affecting people's lives.

Re:Latvians, Schmatvians (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 9 months ago | (#44326645)

I suppose I should point out that this is just another instance of metadata analysis gone awry.

Re:Latvians, Schmatvians (1)

gronofer (838299) | about 9 months ago | (#44335439)

What's wrong with being associated with Latvians anyway? I don't believe they are any more evil than the average Europeans.

Re:Latvians, Schmatvians (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 9 months ago | (#44335623)

No genuine disparagement of Latvians intended, just a reference to the article, and a joke. The Latvians are a fine people, too long oppressed by the Soviet Union, but who are now building a modern free state. I wish both them and you well.

Having written that, you may want to view the link as well.

My source of PYMK randoms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326241)

Back in the day when gmail was still signing people up on an invite only basis, I got my account from a rather prolific inviter handing them out on a forum i frequent. Gmail would automatically add the new gmail address of new invitees to the inviter's address book, which is needless to say where the dozens of random people came from when the inviter decided to let linkedin access his address book...

LinkedIn is worse than most (2)

Aguazul2 (2591049) | about 9 months ago | (#44326245)

When FB or Amazon recommends something/someone, I can usually see some sense behind it. LinkedIn is just plain random. I don't know 95% of the people it seems to want to connect me with. It is a joke.

Re:LinkedIn is worse than most (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 9 months ago | (#44326301)

That's odd - on mine it's mostly second and third level connections from my area, but, from TFA:

nor do I have any recollection of saying yes, but thatâ(TM)s just the way it goes in todayâ(TM)s wacky world of social networking.

No it's not. That's the way lazy people do social networking. I certainly don't approve connections from people I haven't met - Linkedin in has built-in support for finding people through your network - trying to artificially pad it out isn't going to be of any real help. The Linkedin people must be reading, shaking their head, and wondering if the guy's ever heard of GIGO.

Though, to the author's NSA point - yeah, the invention of Big Data is cause to re-visit the SCOTUS decision on metadata - it does not have the same meaning today that it did in the 70's.

Re:LinkedIn is worse than most (2)

auric_dude (610172) | about 9 months ago | (#44326345)

Please remember it is you that is the product that Linkedin and other services are advertising and selling so play the game and get linking, liking and friending.

Re:LinkedIn is worse than most (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 9 months ago | (#44326403)

You must be providing Facebook with more data than I am, I just keep an account because some insist on using it as their RSVP system. The people it recommends are typically totally random people who have one friend in common with me.

Re:LinkedIn is worse than most (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326917)

The people it recommends are typically totally random people who have one friend in common with me.

and therefore aren't 'totally random' at all.

Re:LinkedIn is worse than most (1)

Aguazul2 (2591049) | about 9 months ago | (#44326943)

You must be providing Facebook with more data than I am

Maybe that's it -- I have never given LinkedIn much data, so the results are crap. But still turning up random unknown people constantly just makes an even worse impression, and makes it even less likely I'd put information into it.

Re:LinkedIn is worse than most (1)

Zatchmort (1091857) | about 9 months ago | (#44326415)

For me, LinkedIn mostly recommends people who are two or three degrees of separation away... but two of my favorite website operators are consistently in my top hits. I have no idea how or why; I haven't connected to them because 1) I don't know them that personally and 2) it's just plain eerie.

Re:LinkedIn is worse than most (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44332711)

For me, LinkedIn mostly recommends people who are two or three degrees of separation away... but two of my favorite website operators are consistently in my top hits. I have no idea how or why; I haven't connected to them because 1) I don't know them that personally and 2) it's just plain eerie.

It may be because you are using webmail. I've seen linked-in mine contacts from a gmail webmail session that was simultaneously open, and then send invites to many of these contacts.

Re:LinkedIn is worse than most (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 9 months ago | (#44326445)

linked in's success metric for their internal analysis is number of connections made.

Re:LinkedIn is worse than most (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44327141)

FB has, for at least two years, been suggesting Estonian acquaintances. Probably 80% of the suggestions for me are Estonian with names I couldn't hope to pronounce. I have no recollection of any such connection (with the exception that I went down a few paths to see if there was one.) My location? USA. My current friends list count? zero.

Re:LinkedIn is worse than most (1)

godel_56 (1287256) | about 9 months ago | (#44333327)

When FB or Amazon recommends something/someone, I can usually see some sense behind it. LinkedIn is just plain random. I don't know 95% of the people it seems to want to connect me with. It is a joke.

There's also this piece from the same author of TFA where he suspects Linkedin is mining your Gmail contacts.

http://www.itworld.com/it-managementstrategy/254094/wtf-linkedin-doing-my-data

Sveiki (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326261)

Sveiki Slashdot Es mlu js visus ldzu, stiet man karstu putraimi visas jsu bzes ir pie mums. Js esat fori.

There is a simple cure (4, Insightful)

macbeth66 (204889) | about 9 months ago | (#44326269)

Stop using social media. Some of the crud I've seen on LinkedIn is as bad as Facebook and I do not want to be associated with it.

Side Note: If you do use LinkedIn; it is not a dating site. Some of my female colleagues have started complaining about unwanted attention. Just because she met you at that training class last month, and accepted your connection, does not mean she is interested in 'knowing' you. Sheesh.

So how big of a problem is it, really? (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 9 months ago | (#44326279)

Noting some key facts about the US terrorist watch list:

Terror watch list grows to 875,000 [washingtontimes.com]

As of December 2012, a factsheet from the center states, TIDE contained over 875,000 entries. Each one represents a known or suspected terrorist and includes all their known aliases and spelling variations on their name, the official said.

Less than one percent, or fewer than 9,000, were Americans, including both citizens and legal permanent residents, he said, adding the center does not release exact numbers.

So if there are only 9,000 known or suspected terrorists in the US out of 310,000,000+ Americans, how much impact is that likely to have? I wouldn't necessarily expect terrorists to be highly connected to people outside of their purpose.

Re:So how big of a problem is it, really? (1)

mjr167 (2477430) | about 9 months ago | (#44326339)

Re:So how big of a problem is it, really? (2)

cold fjord (826450) | about 9 months ago | (#44326501)

The real question isn't who is connected to terrorists, but rather, "Who are the terrorists and their support network?"

The intelligence agencies are not going to be much interested in accumulating every possible association, but rather in narrowing it to the people of interest for the purpose at hand. If I knew the pilot that flies Prime Minister Cameron and his guests, I could be connected to many of his guests with 2 hops. Lets say one of those guests was Angela Merkel. Anyone that cared to look would realize that I did not in fact know or have any influence with Angela Merkel. It would also become obvious pretty quickly that I don't communicate with her. The "connection" may technically exists or be possible, but as a practical matter it is pointless.

I will also point out that when traversing a hierarchical organization, 6 hops doesn't necessarily get you to the top.

Re:So how big of a problem is it, really? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 9 months ago | (#44327161)

technically exists or be possible, but as a practical matter it is pointless?
Most groups in the 1960-90's had perfect papers - cleared by an embassy or state backed.
Just like the freedom fighters for Libya, Syria, Chechnya, ~Yugoslavia, Iran.
Funny how they and their weapons move with such a total lack of understanding of their support networks.

Re:So how big of a problem is it, really? (1)

sjames (1099) | about 9 months ago | (#44330659)

Except they just acknowledged that they DO look at every association out to 3 hops.

Re:So how big of a problem is it, really? (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about 9 months ago | (#44326771)

So if there are only 9,000 known or suspected terrorists

So?

Terror watch list grows to 875,000

Guess what, THAT'S THE LIST THEY USE. If your name is on the 875,000 list, you don't get to fly, even if you're a Senator.

Re:So how big of a problem is it, really? (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 9 months ago | (#44327173)

Only 9,000 or so of the 875,000 are US citizens or residents.

Re:So how big of a problem is it, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44329753)

Proven, or suspected?

The Watch List isn't for people, it's for names associated with a relationship matrix. Which is a bit annoying, as one person can be on the list multiple times for multiple names -- and others who share the name also end up getting flagged.

I'm really surprised that "terrorists" haven't tried gaming the system -- all it would take is for some of them to change their names to common or influential Western names and then do a bit of globe trotting... suddenly, all sorts of people end up getting watched, searched and detained.

Or do you have more information you're allowed to share with the public?

Re:So how big of a problem is it, really? (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about 9 months ago | (#44334535)

My bad, I misunderstood the 9000 part, but the issue remains: that's not 9000 people, that's 9000 names, or else we wouldn't have so much trouble with the no fly list.

Re:So how big of a problem is it, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44327029)

9,000? So, wouldn't it just be easier and more economical for the government to just kill those 9,000 people, and any other US citizens that end up on the list? Then you don't have the cost of tracking them and if the list is really any good, you just eliminated all know terrorists in the US. And really, 9,000 people won't be missed.

Re:So how big of a problem is it, really? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 9 months ago | (#44327089)

Cold different groups within the US gov look at different people. But making their lists over many years might not be very hard.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Core [wikipedia.org]
When seeking funding they like to quote big numbers, when caught by the press, they like to quote any smaller database.
Recall the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_Awareness_Office [wikipedia.org] and withdrawal of funding?
Transferred to other government agencies...

Re:So how big of a problem is it, really? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 9 months ago | (#44328879)

I remember an episode of ST:DS9 (paradise lost, i think) when just 2 "terrorists" that couldn't be found and could be anyone almost turned a government respectful of their citizens into a deep police state, even with the good will of the ones doing it. And in this case we can't assume the good will of everyone in the "law" side.

The problem is that you don't need to have "real" connections to expand the circle of watching a lot. Assumed, misidentified (you know, all those biometric tests that have 90% accuracy of identifying the right person, and 30% of misidentifying the wrong one), that sound alike (i.e. if they are intercepting phone calls of them, and some say something that could sound like your name), contact collectors that like to have thousands of friends in facebook/linkedin/etc and friended you and one of them, or even spammers that send mail using the address of other people.

Think that you are in the open, there is a big electric storm forming, and you don't know if the next random lightning will hit you or someone close to you. And you can't take cover.

Re:So how big of a problem is it, really? (1)

sjames (1099) | about 9 months ago | (#44330649)

You call a plumber, terrorist calls the same plumber. Boom, you are connected to a terrorist at only two (out of three the NSA examines) hops. Better hope you don't have the same mechanic too.

your fault (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326323)

Seriously, if you have provided incomplete and inaccurate information to LinkedIn, how is it their fault that they suggest you only bullshit? Oh, and the NSA will blame that on you too if they shoot you "just in case". Oh oops, we were 99.99% sure that he was a terrorist. What an idiot, why didn't he fill out the facebook profile completely. We did nothing wrong. :-(

Analysing Degree of separations creates conformism (4, Interesting)

Coeurderoy (717228) | about 9 months ago | (#44326381)

Originally when the concept of "degree of separation was invented" the idea was that everybody was connected to everybody through 6 degree of separation.
At the same time people think that are "the good guy" who does not keep "bad company".

With social media the length of the separation chain has considerably shrunk.

Add to this that most people who "do something interesting" (like making really nice flower arrangement for instance) will tend to travel and meet a "much smaller" crowd of people who "move around".

In this "smaller world" you can make "very short chains" to quite shady people. Actually it is trivial to create a chain from any US politician to "big list of officially evil guy" that at most 4 level deep. (For instance Ex HP Head Carly Fiorina went to KSA and met large HP clients including the heads of SBL managed by the brother of that really bad guy who did get some support from the ex President(s) Bush when he was against the Soviets...
And now comes the "suspicion creep" if you know Fiorina and one or tow of the Bushes, then you know 2 suspicious characters that are 3 or less level away from Really Suspicious guy.
So "one" could be ok, but 2 humm very bad...

So unless you take great pain to avoid anybody that might "be out of the ordinary", you imediatelly are 100% sure to become somehow "in contact" with somebody "suspicious".

Or seen another way, being not completely boring gets you something like 200 contacts, among which you can expect at least 3 "super connectors" who do not really overlap, particularly if you are travelling, so taking in account diminishing returns it is hard to avoid having less the 3M "level 3 contacts"
or 1/1000 of all adults in the world

the probability that less than 2 are "bad guys" is quite low.

so be boring or be afraid, very afraid...

Re:Analysing Degree of separations creates conform (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326725)

My work requires me to keep up to date with the computer industry. This means I must be connected with the hacker sites and ipso facto it also demands I am 1 degree separated from Mr. Snowden and many others who the US Government takes a dim view of. Get real people, mere contact isn't criminality, it is in the case of the investigator necessity. This is why the whole concept of Probable Cause is such a necessity!

Re:Analysing Degree of separations creates conform (3, Insightful)

OrugTor (1114089) | about 9 months ago | (#44326863)

"You" might "want" to "back off" on the "quotes".

Re:Analysing Degree of separations creates conform (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44327273)

This would be easy to abuse:

1. Become someone's friend. Politicians certainly wants to have lots of friends. NSA agents are probably a lonely bunch...
2. Make contact with known criminals, mafiosi and terrorists. (Not that hard, terrorists like those who sympathize with their cause...)

Your marks are now connected to all sorts of low life through only one link - you! A fake profile might be handy if you don't want yourself associated with terrorists...

Re:Analysing Degree of separations creates conform (1)

dpilot (134227) | about 9 months ago | (#44327341)

So if I were a terrorist network, I would take a few new recruits, preferably of the "innocent-seeming" sort and dedicate them to fouling the system. I would have them keep their innocence, send them to no training camps, rather send them out onto social media and have them be as social and friendly as possible. I'd have them make as many connections as possible and get well entrenched in the system.

Next I'd make sure they make online associations with known terrorists - enough online associations so it can't be missed by any sort of metadata search. At the same time I'd keep the rest of their outward appearance innocent, and keep them in close touch with all of their friends.

Assuming I had a dozen or so of these people working for me, I'd also have them cross-link some of their contacts, so that most of their truly innocent friends had multiple friends inside my organization - cross-linking.

Consider the NSA 3-degrees-of-separation exploitable. Snarl the system. Cause innocent people to be annoyed the NSA / watch list / no-fly list.

Re:Analysing Degree of separations creates conform (1)

Coeurderoy (717228) | about 9 months ago | (#44330799)

Except you would not need to do anything, nobody lives in a vacuum, so just the "natural" connectors as sufficient to "poison" the network.

Oh dear, I am in trouble... (2)

Stolpskott (2422670) | about 9 months ago | (#44326383)

As I used to work for an American company who have an office in Dubai (full of people with Arabic names, and lots of Muslims), a working team in India (very close to Pakistan, never mind the fact that the two countries hate each other almost as much as Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers fans), and a development/support team in the Phillippines (close to China, with a similar relationship to India and Pakistan, and with their own domestic terrorism issues), clients in sub-Saharan Africa, Russia and Texas, my LinkedIn and Facebook profiles are full of people in those areas.
Given that the NSA does not stop at analyzing your own contacts [slashdot.org], I am apparently a person of interest if one of my contacts has any dubious friends, or if one of my contact's contacts has any dubious friends.
Kevin Bacon is indeed going to be screwed, we might as well just lock him up and start waterboarding him now, and save the NSA the trouble.

Re:Oh dear, I am in trouble... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326493)

You think that is bad? I was taking flight lessons during 9/11 from one of the flight instructors that taught one of the hijacker pilots that hit the World Trade Center. The FBI never talked to me, but they did talk to my flight instructor. I probably flew the same planes he did just a year later. Scheduled to fly solo on 9/11 in the afternoon, that flight was canceled.

I did still get my license with the same instructor.

Re: Oh dear, I am in trouble... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326559)

Good! Add me and everyone else you interact with to your contacts. The more "suspicious" connections that exist, the more work we dump on the NSA. How long before we can overwhelm them?

I'm going to go add a shitload of contacts to my gmail now. I wonder what it will do to their analysis if I have contacts at al Qaeda and the NSA?

Re: Oh dear, I am in trouble... (1)

sjames (1099) | about 9 months ago | (#44330741)

To be fair, the NSA is shaping up to be a terrorist organization that hates our freedom.

Re:Oh dear, I am in trouble... (1)

sjames (1099) | about 9 months ago | (#44330725)

clients in sub-Saharan Africa, Russia and Texas,

Wow, you're screwed! :-)

real question (3, Insightful)

beefoot (2250164) | about 9 months ago | (#44326391)

If you truly concern about this problem, the real question to ask is why on earth do you sign up with linkedin (or g+ or facebook).

Re:real question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326787)

Um. No. The NSA has signed you up for their social network, regardless of your choice with respect to linkedin, g+ or facebook or anything else. The point of the article is that these well known sites get it wrong all the time. Therefore, the NSA is also likely getting it wrong. That is a problem.

Re:real question (1)

Hillgiant (916436) | about 9 months ago | (#44327077)

True story: I was laid off on a Tuesday morning and by the end of the week had a new job at a 17% pay increase. The recruiter found me through Linkedin. Yes, the plural of "anecdote" is not "data"; and I have had a number of truly bizarre interactions on Linkedin. On the balance, I consider my overall experience positive.

Re:real question (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 9 months ago | (#44329053)

True story: I was laid off on a Tuesday morning and by the end of the week had a new job at a 17% pay increase. The recruiter found me through Linkedin.

Wow: Wendy's pays17% more than MacDonald's?

This has actively cause trouble (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326495)

My father always gets stopped at airports because he shares a name with a terror suspect. His first name is within the 10 most common first names in the US, his last name is within the 10 most common last names. I wonder how many other people this affects? I wonder how it may get worse if they include 3 hops of separation?

Well.... Duh! (3, Interesting)

plopez (54068) | about 9 months ago | (#44326595)

This is what I, and a host of others, having been screaming about for years. People are blindly using analytics and "big data" to make important decisions decisions about health care, insurance, credit ratings, terrorist affiliations, etc. I have encountered so much bad data in my career the thought that it is take as "gospel" makes me sick. Bad data are out there and cleaning up a polluted data stream, when possible, is expensive and takes a long time.

Then you add in the use of NoSQL databases engines such as MongoDB which are not ACID compliant. You are virtually guaranteeing data will be corrupted. But then again, maybe I "just don't get it". But personally I think contributing to bad data is unethical.

Re:Well.... Duh! (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 9 months ago | (#44327867)

But even if the data is not corrupted or polluted, there's an even more basic problem: people misunderstand statistics. Even statisticians will frequently misunderstand statistics. Good statistical analysis often runs contrary to our natural sense of understanding, and statistics, by its nature, does not provide certainties.

Re:Well.... Duh! (1)

plopez (54068) | about 9 months ago | (#44330419)

And the first thing they told me in Stats 101 was that you should not infer from the population or sample to the individual. THis stuff is bad on so many levels it is mind boggling.

Re:Well.... Duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44330565)

Just wait for someone to pass a law requiring *you* to keep all this data relevant and correct. ...even if Facebook owns it. ...even if you can't access it. ...even if you can't change it.

Re:Well.... Duh! (1)

plopez (54068) | about 9 months ago | (#44331767)

That's the way it is already. If you are the victim of identity theft it is YOUR responsibility to clean up the mess. That is why the flip attitude about data integrity coming out of the NoSQL crowd enrages me.

Imagine This (1)

mephox (1462813) | about 9 months ago | (#44326609)

Purely speculative and all conjecture. I know nothing of the algorithms involved and make the following assumptions about the meta-data and the algorithms.

Meta-data
1: Geo-location of the event/person
2: Time of the event/person
Algorithm
3: Compare location +1 correlation.
4: Compare time +1 correlation.
5: Location compares street.
6: Time within 1 day.

Given these very simplistic assumptions. We have two people. We'll call them Good Steve and Evil Steve. They have never met, never seen each other. One lives at Street A #15 and is homebound (GS), the other, ES works at Street A #12 and is plotting embezzelment. Abreviated to GS and ES for the purpose of the demonstration.

Day 1, City A, Street A #12: ES makes 4 calls, which get logged.
Day 1, City A, Street A #15: GS makes 2 calls, which gets logged.
Correlation between ES and GS: 6.

Already, the correlation between ES and GS is 6 after one day. Because they're on the same street, just a few street #s away from each other.

Suppose this goes on in the same way for a few months. Say 3. The correlation is 540 after three months. Now, say that the person that ES was calling has half that, assuming calling the same person. In the ensuing metadata analysis after the embezzlement is discovered, there is a link formed between ES and GS that is GREATER in this admittedly VERY simple model than that of ES and the person ES was conspiring against. Another example, say this sort of thing happened but ES called a bank, and GS called the same bank after or before ES. There becomes a tenuous link between the bank, ES and GS based on both location and time and even number called, a stat not directly recorded by this algorithm.

The actual reality should be far more complex, but I would imagine a meta-data analysis would rely on more rules with finer resolutions among other things... At least I hope so, so that the probability correlations of a connection between two people or a person and a group of people is more solid and worth investigation than the example I demonstrated as a worst case scenario.

In some cases metadata can be useful, but I do not think it is for any reasonable, serious leg for investigations to stand on. Certainly it is useful in an investigatory sense to draw lines between connected people and groups, but an investigation is necessarily an activity that takes place AFTER something has gone down that requires investigation. It is NOT for government to do an ongoing investigation into its citizens without due cause, oversight and a full accounting after the fact.

To do otherwise would be to invite the temptation to use the knowledge and insight such an ongoing investigation would make available to tamp down on things the government in power would really not prefer to allow. It's not hard to imagine a far religious right government doing so, but we must also be wary of the far left as well. To allow the left also to tamp down on private and personal freedoms would be as bad as the far right doing the same.

To make it more amenable to the lovers of LOTR out there...

It is analogous to Frodo offering the ring to Gandalf. Here's the quote:

I dare not take it. Not even to keep it safe. Understand, Frodo. I would use this ring (knowledge) from a desire to do good... But through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.

NOT SEARCHING FOR TERRORISTS... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44326695)

They are searching for patriots who may decide that they prefer some form of actual democracy to oligarchy.

stupid premise (1)

superwiz (655733) | about 9 months ago | (#44327537)

It's not as if it's binary. It's not a know vs don't-know that makes for a link in this maze. There are weights attached to all links in graphs and what determines these weights is what makes the algorithm -- not the mere presence or absence of a link. As an extreme case, what if you considered yourself linked to everyone, just with links of weight 0? This whole "we are all connected" crap is not very meaningful without the subtle answer to the question "how much?"

Translation error in summary (1)

Tranzistors (1180307) | about 9 months ago | (#44327865)

The "mess up your life" translates as "sabojat tavu dzivi". Right now it says "mess up ones own life". And no, slashdot is still not friendly to non-latin alphabets.

Its not the algorithm ... (1)

PPH (736903) | about 9 months ago | (#44328347)

... its the metadata. Its too easy to spam some systems with false links. Some Latvian CS graduate wants to pad his/her resume. So they write a script to find other people on some board with similar credentials and fire off a request to connect. If even a small fraction of the recipients blindly accept, suddenly they have an impressive list of professional contacts for some HR department to see.

TLAs that do their own analysis have some experience at separating random links from meaningful ones. Many terrorists call for pizza delivery, so that phone number is a dead end. Since meaningful links are actionable (maybe even with a SWAT team), it pays to distill this list down to a minimum.

FU government (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | about 9 months ago | (#44330631)

I find the situation where a government treats the whole world as suspect quite objectionable.

Where's Fantastic Four when you need them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44331107)

After all, Latvia is the home of Dr. Victor Von Doom.

Linked-In Also Grabs Your Gmail Email Contacts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44332613)

My wife decided to update her Linked-In profile (to increase job contacts), she also happened to be signed into Gmail webmail (NOT using no-script I might add). Once she was done with her updates she had a popup asking her if she wanted to update her contacts. Linked-In then promptly sent off 70, yes 70 emails either updating current contacts (which was maybe 10) and asking the rest if they knew her to add her to their Linked-In contacts.

She was rather shocked, as there was no warning by Linked-In that she was about to send off 70 updates. Plus, most of the invites came from her Gmail email account to which she had never sent off an invite. Some of those people she never wanted to send a request to. Most of the people did have a closer relationship, but not all. so Linked-ins algorithms still need some work.

She tried asking Linked-In about the promiscuous behaviour, but there was never any response.

So watch out with Linked-In, the company is doing some very strange stuff, probably via javascript & cookies. I regularly block linked-in, twitter, facebook, and yes as much as possible google scripts on most websites for exactly this reason.

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