Attention economy, the implicit web and myware

The term attention economy describes an actual trend: the increasing “wealth of information creates a poverty of attention”. The separation of important information from the unimportant noise becomes more and more crucial.

We are leveraging the experience of other users, who sacrificed their attention before, and voted implicitly on the content they visited. This saves our time; we can focus on consuming already preselected, relevant information instead of searching for the needle in the haystack again. FAROO uses this wisdom of crowds for its user generated, user centric, attention based ranking.

To find the most relevant information possible, we have to rate the whole web. To ensure an objective ranking, each document has to be rated by many people. But the extra time required for manual voting would prevent the majority of visitors to vote on every document they visit or to vote at all. Only an automatic, implicit rating ensures that each visitor votes for each document he visits.
This is what the implicit web is about. Analyzing our behavior and using traces left during our journey through the web, we are voting automatically on the fly, implicit without manual action. An interesting blog post of Alex Iskold of Read/WriteWeb illustrates this further.

While this seems a useful thing, it raises privacy concerns. We feel and fear our privacy is once more fading away. But than, myware reconciles personalization and privacy. Myware is tracking our behavior, but is not revealing it to any third party, but using it solely to benefit the user.

This describes perfectly the approach of FAROO to use all the implicit information in order to cope with the information overflow and to improve the search experience for the user, without sacrificing privacy. A as the information is not leaving the computer, there is no risk this data could be sold, handed over or leaked from a central repository.

FAROO utilizes the implicit web to direct the crawler to places the users are interested in, to select, rank and personalize results according to the attention users paid to the content visited, and to implement behavior targeting for advertising based on present and past behavior.

Quest for the Perfect Search

In a talk held by Michael Zimmer, “Privacy and Quaero’s Quest for the Perfect Search Engine: Threats and Opportunities“, he called the designers of the Quaero project to engage in value-conscious design in order to protect the value of privacy.

He made eight privacy-protecting demands:

1. Quaero must be designed in such a way as to prevent any substantive response to a civil or criminal subpoena of user activity

2. Quaero must be designed so IP addresses and cookies cannot be associated with particular users or accounts

3. Query traffic must be encrypted to prevent ‘man in the middle’ monitoring

4. Quaero must provide transparency in the data it collects about users, how it is used, who uses it, and how long it is retained

5. Quaero must not engage in personalized or behaviorally-targeted advertising

6. Quaero must take steps to remove or obscure personally-identifiable images (faces, license plates, etc) from its searchable index

7. Quaero must provide individuals the ability to remove or obscure personally-identifiable data from its searchable index

8. Quaero must provide users the ability to view, edit, and delete any search history data associated with their account

While we don’t know if Quaero will listen to him, FAROO meets already today six out of eight of his demands. And we believe that we are even conform with the intention behind demand No. 5 .

1. FAROO neither knows its users nor what they are searching.

2. There are neither IP addresses logged nor cookies used.

3. Search queries and index are encrypted.

4. There is no central instance collecting user data at all. No personal data is leaving the computer at any time.

5. Well, FAROO does personalized and behaviorally-targeted advertising. But we are doing this solely on the client side. Therefore we can provide both: personalization and privacy.

6. There is no image search.

7. Difficult, as there is a verification/authorization issue: How we know that the person requesting the removal of information is in fact the person the information is belonging to?

8. There is no search account and there is no search history beyond the own computer.