Most internet users are stunned by how much data they have in public, and the kind of things an evil-minded person would be able to do with it. I do think that a key component of what internet users need is a sort of friendly interpreter that intrudes at just the right moments to remind the user of the risks they might be exposing themselves to.
One of the helpful tools that Gary Kovacs: Tracking the trackersintroduced me to just now is Gary Kovac's Collusion – a Firefox add-on that informs users on what they're being tracked by, and what that means. Take a look at his explanation here:
Tracking technologies, however, is just one small component of the big puzzle. User input is an even bigger component, and fine-print legal terms and conditions is the monster to conquer in making implications of web usage transparent to the user. Learning algorithms and trust metrics could potentially be combined here to provide a helpful assistant that isn't as obnoxious as the office paper clip, while being informative enough to detail out potential issues.
I am aware of one such attempt to address these issues which should be debuting in late summer this year at a trade fair in Spain, and opening up for public beta testing early next year – the di.me project. From what I've seen so far, it's not a perfect solution, but quite probably the most comprehensive one in development to date. I'd welcome any suggestions on alternate solutions to address this gap to follow up on.
Disclaimer: I am involved in this project. If you are interested, we are intending to open source the project after public testing, and we are also looking for site owners interested in connecting with the proposed system.
Di.me project – The Project
The European research project di.me aims at integrating all data in a personal and business sphere by a single, user-controlled point of access – the di.me userware – in order to reduce users’ loss of…