Corporate Takeovers

Have you heard about the latest big corporate takeover? No, it’s not Cisco buying yet another company, or IBM, or some other large company buying another company. It’s all about big companies taking over your life. You see, corporate America already has its collective finger on each ever every person in the US —and maybe the world— as consumers. They know what you buy, when you but it, how you buy it, and can generally figure out why you buy it. They know about every life event and friend through Facebook and other online social sites, they know your average intelligence level, interests, and snoop through every email through Google, they know how much you make, and how much your life is worth.

But that’s not enough. You see, all this information is available to the people who sell you things, but not to the people you work for. There is still a solid line dividing the world of work from the world of consumption. As always, however, there’s a company willing to end that separation with a new service.

A Santa Barbara, Calif., startup called Social Intelligence data-mines the social networks to help companies decide if they really want to hire you. While background checks, which mainly look for a criminal record, and even credit checks have become more common, Social Intelligence is the first company that I’m aware of that systematically trolls social networks for evidence of bad character. Using automation software that slogs through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, and “thousands of other sources,” the company develops a report on the “real you” — not the carefully crafted you in your resume. The service is called Social Intelligence Hiring. The company promises a 48-hour turn-around. Because it’s illegal to consider race, religion, age, sexual orientation and other factors, the company doesn’t include that information in its reports. Humans review the reports to eliminate false positives. And the company uses only publically shared data — it doesn’t “friend” targets to get private posts, for example. The reports feature a visual snapshot of what kind of person you are, evaluating you in categories like “Poor Judgment,” “Gangs,” “Drugs and Drug Lingo” and “Demonstrating Potentially Violent Behavior.” The company mines for rich nuggets of raw sewage in the form of racy photos, unguarded commentary about drugs and alcohol and much more. -IT Management

The point isn’t just to monitor, but also to predict. Since we’ve tossed out the past, and we’re quickly wearing out the present, all the smart money is now on being able to predict the future.

A Cambridge, Mass., company called Recorded Future, which is funded by both Google and the CIA, claims to use its “temporal analytics engine” to predict future events and activities by companies and individual people. Like Social Intelligence, Recorded Future uses proprietary software to scan all kinds of public web sites, then use some kind of magic pixie dust to find both invisible logical linkages (as opposed to HTML hyperlinks) that lead to likely outcomes. Plug in your search criteria, and the results come in the form of surprisingly accurate future predictions. Recorded Future is only one of many new approaches to predictive analytics expected to emerge over the next year or two. The ability to crunch data to predict future outcomes will be used increasingly to estimate traffic jams, public unrest, and stock performance. But it will also be used to predict the behavior of employees.

We have no shreds of privacy left, it seems —we cannot even protect our future from being raided for actionable and sellable information.

2 comments to Corporate Takeovers

  • Britt Houser

    If google can accurately predict my future actions, does that mean I have no longer have free will? =)

    • Probably not… :-) After all, in the naturalistic model, you really don’t have free will –it’s just a figment of your imagination in order to further evolution.