I’m speaking at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas

The program for the Sydney Opera House’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2012 is out, and I’m on it.

In particular, I’m on a panel discussion called I Share Therefore I Am on Saturday 29 September from 1pm to 2pm.

Whether we lead our whole life online or just dip our toes into the ‘digital pool’ for news or shopping, information about everything we do is being collected, and analysed. Should we accept that our digital footprint will follow us to the grave, shaping our life along the way? Or should we try to hold on to our privacy — even (or especially) when online? Hear from two people who live online, but have distinctly different points of view about the age of sharing and radical transparency.

The person other than me is Victoria Doidge, director of marketing, communications & customer services at the Sydney Opera House. She’s of the share-it-all view, ‘cos the worst that can happen is you’ll see more relevant advertisements. Or something.

I plan to kick off my part of the discussion by sketching out some alarming scenarios made possible by data mining all the things.

[Update 14 September 2012: Added link to session page on Sydney Opera House website.]

Talking total surveillance at the Sydney Writers’ Festival

I’m speaking at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival in a free session on Sunday 20 May called iSpy.

Even before Google controversially demolished the privacy walls between its various products, we were already living in the total surveillance society. With every keystroke we are voluntarily telling companies, governments and heaven knows who else an awful lot about ourselves. Should we be worried about the uses to which this information could be put? Technology writer Stilgherrian discusses the implications of what we share with social media consultant Thomas Tudehope.

I daresay I’ll be covering material like that in my Sydney Morning Herald story You are what you surf, buy or tweet, and the more recent ZDNet Australia story The Facebook experiment, but the conversation will be up to you, the audience.

The theme for SWF this year is “the line between the public and the private”. As artistic director Chip Rolley says in his welcome message:

The question of the limits of what is personal is one of the hottest subjects around.

“Privacy is for paedos,” ex-News of the World journalist Paul McMullan told the UK Leveson Inquiry into the media. Now, via Facebook and Twitter, we voluntarily tell the world things we previously might not have told even our loved ones. Investigative journalists thrive on leaks and finding out what others don’t want us to know. And the state knows few boundaries (personal or political) in its need to prevent another 9/11.

(If you want a high-powered discussion of these issues, Sydney Town Hall discussion on Friday 18 May with former High Court judge Michael Kirby, former director general of MI5-turned-thriller writer Stella Rimington, former CIA interrogator Glenn Carle, media and news blogger Jeff Jarvis and investigative journalist Heather Brooke.)

iSpy is on Sunday 20 May 2012 at 2.30pm at the Bangarra Theatre, Pier 4/5, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay. It’s free, and you don’t need to book — but I’m told that it can sometimes get busy at SWF.

Before that I have speaking engagements on 27 April at DigitalMe in Perth and 11 May at the Saasu Cloud Conference 2012.

SMH: You are what you surf, buy or tweet

I have an op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald today about the surveillance society, something that’s already with us.

Computers can tell when your daughter is pregnant. Sometimes they know even before you do. In a recent feature for The New York Times, Charles Duhigg describes how Target in the US analyses everything it knows about its customers. A young woman buying unscented lotion, a large handbag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a brightly coloured rug is likely to be pregnant. So Target dispatches coupons for baby clothes.

When a father stormed into a store complaining that his teenage daughter had received the coupons, Target was forced to apologise. But days later, he realised the store was right…

You can click through to read the whole thing. But since it was written for the dead-tree paper and not the website there are no links.

Here’s the links to my sources:

You might also enjoy some of my more recent articles on related topics:

Getting to grips with LinkedIn

Thanks to my recent posts about my confusion about the point of LinkedIn and coming to the conclusion that LinkedIn is a giant Rolodex, I was treated by their PR firm to a briefing session. Here’s what I learned.

On Monday Shiva Kumar, an associate director at Edelman, spent 90 minutes over coffee running through the advanced features, mostly following the sequence of items in How Journalists Use LinkedIn.

The key lesson for me was that while LinkedIn is certainly useful for recruiters and job-hunters, it’s even more powerful when you think of it as a global database of professionals and their skills, experiences and connections, and use it for smart data mining — and by that I mean data mining that’s aware of the structure of people’s working relationships.

Continue reading “Getting to grips with LinkedIn”