At the end of the month I get a privacy statement...

...similar in format to a credit card statement. It lists all the deals and relationships I have agreed to that month and what I can expect. It says I agreed to give the Gap particular personal information, but that information should go no further than them. I gave a pretty detailed personal profile to Raven and the three companies they gave it to show up on my statement. Those three have a one-time use of my data. Raven owes me a map. In the end I gave CompUSA my entire profile. I am owed a computer. The nine vendors they sold my info to also show up; they have unlimited use of my profile and CompUSA web site activities. I'll get junk mail from those nine for a while--but my new computer will be able to filter it all out! In addition, I made a deal with the New York Times which lets them keep my reading activities, but nothing else, for a free month's subscription. Also, my statement shows that American Airlines got my address from ABC, when they claimed level 1. I'll have to have my privacy bot contact them and sort that "mistake" out.

Caller ID, unlisted phone numbers, unlisted email address, individual-free aggregates, personally encrypted medical records, passport profiles, temporary pseudonym badges, digital signatures, biometric passwords, and so on. These are all the technologies we'll be using to sort out the messy business of creating relationships and trust in a network economy.

If only we knew precisely what relationships were. Industrial productivity was easy to measure. One could ascertain a clear numerical answer. Relationships, on the other hand, are indefinite, fuzzy, imprecise, complex, innumerate, slippery, multifaceted. Much like the net itself.

As we create technologies of relationships we keep running into the soft notions of reputation, privacy, loyalty, and trust. Unlike bit or baud, there's no good definition of what these concepts mean exactly, though we have some general ideas. Yet we are busy engineering a network world to transmit and amplify reputations and loyalty and trust. The hottest, hippest frontiers on the net today are the places where these technologies are being developed.



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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK