Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Ghosts in the Machine


Last week I wrote about why I preferred to be out of the social media loop (OOTL). My reasons had to do with the way social media works today. I repeat, today; tomorrow will be worse.

Before I tell you why, try to imagine all the information social media has about individuals, about you. In addition to collecting information directly from you, they also collect information about you from other sources—and buy it from Data Brokers.

Now, think of all those questions websites offer you as security questions, like mother’s maiden name. How many do you think are truly unknown to any large collector of your personal data?

So, how will social media be worse tomorrow? Look at the title again. Yes, I’m talking ghosts. As in manifestations of dead people. Specifically, virtual online representations of the deceased. Using Big Data, these ghosts will seem to know you.

I know what you’re going to say: Why would I respond to a dead person? I agree that most of us, me included, would not. And let’s ignore the eternally gullible who always will. In between, are those who might, like a recent widow or widower.

There are many others in the middle group. People have been connected (or exposed) to the Internet for many years. Yet, I’m continually surprised when some one shows an inappropriate curiosity (while driving) when contacted by an unknown person.

This always baffles me. Is it a need for even more contacts? Why are they still curious after all these spams and phishes over all those years? Do they seriously think this unknown might be important? I don’t see reason here, but Pavlov comes to mind.

Whatever the cause, this is what the creators of ghosts are counting on. That and the fact that the Internet has had a long-standing problem with the data of inactive (nonliving?) users.

I could describe how ghost-makers could take advantage of this Internet weakness, but then I’d be helping the bad guys. They don’t need it. Besides, it’s their access to our personal data that’s the real problem here.

And not just any ghosts. These ghosts will be tailored to your profile. They will come from your late loved ones, family, friends, even the famous people you admired or wanted to meet. It’s what will make ghosts irresistible.

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