The Dark Side of Open APIs: Privacy exposed

February 3, 2008 at 2:54 pm | Posted in privacy | Leave a comment
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Le faux frog just wrote a piece similar to my 30boxes item.

I’m starting to resent some web services that allow users to find friends by entering their e-mail addresses. Why? That feature can be handy but Flickr and Twitter go too far and allow access to e-mail addresses that have not been explicitly marked public. Futhermore, any webcrawler can use those e-mail addresses to generate profiles of people by making a simple API call.

Spokeo crossed my radar this week after I read about it in Newsweek. I’m not interested in monitoring my friends’ activities across dozens of online communities and social networks but I created an account anyway and entered my e-mail address to see what information about me was freely available. I’d recommend periodically doing the same type of thing on Google. I’ve always called it “ego surfing” but the term never really caught on.

To my surprise, Spokeo listed all of my photos on Flickr and all of my tweets on Twitter during the past two weeks. That felt like a violation of my privacy.

How to Write Rich Blog Entries Faster (In The Future)

February 3, 2008 at 11:26 am | Posted in Blogging, Language | 11 Comments
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I came across* the nifty Zemanta WordPress plug-in which automatically enhances your text with semantic links, tags, pictures – and does quite a good job at it. Using their demo, I entered the plain text of the recent Carnival post:


And Zemanta returned it as follows:

Zemanta Output

The text highlighted in orange identifies the words that are automatically converted into links. In the full working version, you can add and delete words to the list.

The obvious downside, however, is that Zemanta is not available yet – and if it was, it could probably not be used by users like me, but only by those who have installed WordPress on their own server space. On their own blog and website, Zemanta are not exactly spilling the beans about their immediate plans to release or not to release this plug-in (I quite like Jochen’s notion of a blog being something like a personal tabloid).

It’s also too bad that one cannot just grab the source code of an enhanced page from their demo, as the way it is coded (lot’s of div’s and id’s instead of straight links) is not accepted by! Neither can one simply copy the tags as they use space separation whereas WP uses comma separation (I am all for comma separation, btw, as it allows for collocations). Yet I guess their server would soon be flooded with requests if they offered a demo that allowed you to enhance a page and take the code with you.

*I’ve subscribed to a couple of blogs from Barcamp presenters, and even though I didn’t go to the next one in Klagenfurt (and would not have had anything to contribute anyway), I still get the fresh news that gets circulated there. Nice:-) According to one of those blogs, Zemanta will go beta towards the end of March. By then I might have switched to – and then the decision will be pending whether it wouldn’t be wiser to switch to German, too – blogging in German, however, does oddly not feel natural to me.

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