Sunday, November 27, 2005

imho retroactive (accountability) how did you get that information


Haiku: al

How did you get a particular piece of identity information on somebody else? That’s a bit like asking how a particular dollar bill with a particular serial number ended up in your wallet. Or how you came down with your latest headcold.

Retroactively, tracing the chain of custody of any fluid entity—data, currency, infectious diseases, etc--is a task for forensic investigators. And a particularly labor-intensive task at that. You only track accountability for that chain in order to assign responsibility—hence sanctions—and to break the chain of transmission from being exploited further.

Identity is currency, of course, and currency has a way of flowing across all boundaries, even when the “authorities” used their fiercest weapons to stanch the flow. I hate to be fatalistic about it, but humans are addicted to currencies of all sorts. Stubborn human addictions—money, sex, drugs, etc.—have a way of crashing all boundaries everywhere, and are quite clever at concealing their tracks. A couple of years ago, I wrote the following poem as a meditation on this phenomenon, in which the liquid transnational entity (ambition, money, semen, disease, etc.) seems to have a calculating mind all its own:


Open borders are
dominions liquid as

Common currencies
cross land to land as hands pass

The path of a sneeze
is everywhere open to


Not really a triple-haiku: 5-6-4/5-7-3/5-7-5, not 5-7-5/5-7-5/5-7-5. Rigid calculation can become robotic. Truly infectious strings change their outer markers to foil defenses.

Plagiarism is becoming a surprisingly easy offense to detect. Every original author’s body of work is marked by that author’s unique style. It’s fascinating how researchers can algorithmically detect my or anybody else’s natural writing style, in terms of sentence structure, word choice, and other recurring elements. Essentially, your body of original written work is a key element of your personal iSoR, traceable back to only you (unless you’ve been plagiarizing others wholesale since the moment you first laid hands on keyboard). To the extent that others steal whole chunks of your written oeuvre and claim it as their own, they are laying their thievery wide open to detection.

Here’s something else I wrote in the 90s that’s relevant to this meditation:


Bet we’ll strangle on strings
Enemies will seek out catchphrases
Everybody who ever banged the boilerplate
Rounded up into hit lists
Caught in crosshairs
All ten million
Pressed away.


Written in 1998, when search engines were in their infancy. Google and kin are now the number one answer to the “how did you get that information” question. They’re also the principal means through which our personal iSoRs are exposed to the world’s view.

In perpetuity.


P.S. A few hours ago I wrote/posted "imho identity privacy reputation." Now it's been scooped up by They misspelled my surname. So did Alison Statton and Spike. Some stuff I put out there not expecting anybody to notice. And folks do. By the way, is there some universal dyslexia that causes people to transpose i and e in the middle of unfamiliar words? And even in very familiar words. Wierd!