Law in the Internet Society
-- AdamMcclay - 08 Dec 2008

Building from the suggestion in class of thinking about every point in our lives where some electronic record is made of our activities, I decided to do just that. For one week, I kept a log of every time I was (knowingly) on camera, every term I typed into any commercial site, every transaction made with my debit card, and any other electronic tracking. As it turns out, I was not the only one keeping such records. The following memorandum was intercepted.

To: Central Command, Sinister Overlord Syndicate

From: Information Synthesis Bureau, Sinister Overlord Syndicate

Re: Information gathered on Eyeball "Adam" for week of Sunday, November 30 through Saturday, December 6

This report summarizes what the Bureau has learned of the activities of the Eyeball designated "Adam". This report also sets forth strategies to capitalize on the information contained herein.

I. What Have We Learned About "Adam"?


"Adam" spends disposable income primarily, but not exclusively, in the pursuit of two media: books and music. It was recorded browsing through on two occasions. Its search terms included "Twilight" and "Blindness," leading to it examine novels in the Twilight series in the first instance, and several of Jose Saramago's novels in the second instance. In neither instance did it make a purchase. We are unsure how best to synthesize these browsings. One possibility is that "Adam" is attracted by novels that have recently become feature films. Another possibility is that it wishes to familiarize itself with both ends of the quality spectrum in contemporary literature.

In addition to browsing, "Adam" pursued both literary and musical interests by searching in Google. The searched terms included "Eminem Superman lyrics," "All Those Years Ago lyrics," and "Try to Remember lyrics". Again, its taste is difficult to discern from these facts. In our experience, it is rare to find an individual who is an enthusiast of hip hop, adult rock, and show tunes.

"Adam"'s other cultural activities are more straightforward, as when it ran a number of searches in iTunes, again without a purchase. Here, a synthesis can be made of its intentions. It searched for Nick Lowe, Brinsley Schwartz, and (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding. These searches manifest an interest in alternative classic rock that can be easily exploited.

Finally, "Adam" browsed expensive money clips on the Tiffany's website. Although we hesitate to infer a trend from one instance, we feel confident that "Adam" will be susceptible to sales efforts involving extravagant personal accessories.


"Adam" was recorded interacting in person with many individuals of both sexes, almost all roughly in their mid twenties. However, its activities on Facebook indicate a preference for attractive twentysomething brunette females ("ATBF").


"Adam"'s movements are mostly within a close area in the vicinity of Columbia University. It travels a great deal on a direct route between Jerome Greene Hall and 629 West 115th Street, with frequent dalliances in Dodge Fitness Center and the School of International and Public Affairs. It has also been recorded many times entering area establishments known for serving alcoholic beverages.

On two occasions during the week "Adam" ventured outside Morningside Heights. On the first occasion, it was recorded in the 50th Street Station of the 1 train, and then later entering the subterranean concourse of Rockefeller Center. On the second occasion, it was recorded in the Bedford Avenue Station of the L train, and later entering a converted warehouse space known for serving alcoholic beverages. During the latter occasion, it was seen to smoke a clove cigarette. These two occasions are too infrequent and disparate to constitute a trend; therefore, the Bureau's recommendation is to consider "Adam" localized to Morningside Heights.


The Bureau considers that "Adam"'s unexplained visit to Rockefeller Center, when considered with other evidence, constitutes a cause for a terror alert. The corroborative evidence was obtained when "Adam" was recorded entering the following search terms into Google: "Abu Gharib" [sic]; "solar eclipse Portrait of a Lady"; "solar eclipse Two Years Before the Mast"; "solar eclipse The Road"; "solar eclipse House of God". The Bureau considers these searches evidence of a credible threat that "Adam" is engaged in research into the effects of solar eclipses on fictional characters; that it is engaged in this research for the purpose of learning torture principles; and that this research could lead to its developing a working solar eclipse simulator, which could be deployed in Rockefeller Center.

Upon approval from Central Command, the Bureau will forward this important terror alert to the Department of Homeland Security.

II. What Can We Do With "Adam"?

As a primary offense, the Bureau recommends a concentrated bombardment of "Adam"'s Gmail account, focusing on movie tie-in editions of great novels, movie tie-in editions of terrible novels, and any new music released by an artist who has been recording for at least twenty-five years. In addition, manufacturers of fine timepieces and other accessories would be advised to advertise in the margins of "Adam"'s Facebook account. For maximum efficacy, the advertisements should feature ATBFs.

The Bureau also advises that "Adam" may be exploited at establishments that serve alcoholic beverages. To this end, a single ATBF should be stationed at each of the two such establishments in Morningside Heights where "Adam" has been recorded. These ATBFs could be made more appealing to "Adam" by outfitting them in clothing that proclaims their affinity for the movie tie-in edition of a great novel, the movie tie-in edition of a terrible novel, or any musical artist whose career began before 1983. Thus outfitted, it is the Bureau's prediction that an ATBF could sell almost anything to "Adam", but our recommendation is that they offer him clove cigarettes and solicit his membership in any of a number of organizations that require deceptively large financial commitments.

Finally, ATBF's might intercept "Adam" as it walks between Jerome Greene Hall and 629 West 115th Street at any time, outfitted as described above, with similar goals though most likely with less success.

  • This is a reasonable extrapolation of how your introspective data looks from an external viewpoint, but it doesn't begin to capture what your external data looks like to the modeler. You don't summon what all the data about other people tells about you. You don't address the inferences from the rest of your purchases. It's a start on thinking about your digital self, but it isn't the equivalent of thinking like a data-miner.

  • Because you decided to play the thing for yucks, you also don't actually inquire what might be inferred about the population of people like yourself, all being simultaneously observed and mined. So the social control implications of your record-keeping are pretty much unexplored.


Webs Webs

r6 - 07 Feb 2009 - 15:16:00 - EbenMoglen
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