Friday, July 5, 2013

Meet the sarcasm monitor - coming to a social network near you...

Okay, so we already know our personal details are ‘out there’ in the hands of companies who want our data to sell it to third parties. Big Data is big business!

Tracking technologies like marketing analytics, digital footprinting, and cookies all help to build a detailed picture of you: what you had for breakfast, where you ate last night and even your home address.

Spotter, a French company, has reportedly taken things a step further with the development of a tool that detects if a comment posted online has a “sarcastic” tone. Presumably their clients will use the findings as some form of business intelligence.

Obviously it depends on where your company does business. For an international company like Smoothwall this could be relevant if we wanted to track our British customers, because this is a trait of our humour. However, this will probably be next to useless for monitoring comments of customers in parts of the world where sarcasm isn’t part of daily conversation. It would also be interesting to see if it can identify the full spectrum of irony.

The UK sales director at Spotter, Richard May assures us that “the company monitored material that was "publicly available". Thanks for the reassurance! (Did you get that one Spotter?). Seriously though, how can we be sure?

Search giant Google was slammed for circumventing the default settings on Apple’s Safari browser which installed cookies even when the users opted for non-third party cookies. Facebook is also not so friendly, reportedly scanning your personal messages to increase its “like” counter.

Spotter’s chosen time to come to market doesn’t seem so good. People are already more aware than ever that Big Brother is watching. In a global survey by Big Brother Watch 79% said they were concerned about their online privacy. Wherever we are, we must watch what we say online. Many cases have been in the media, with people getting disciplined or fired for being vocal online about things that happen at work.

The Ed Snowden revelations have made us more worried. Just how much do they know? The answer: a lot! As I write GCHQ could be trawling through your Facebook posts, internet histories and phone calls. It is for our own good you know. To protect our freedom, says William Hague. How free do you feel? Not so much?

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