Good vs. Evil — the oldest plot line in history. This post is about available data — do we try to keep it out of the hands of the bad guys or let us defend ourselves with it? There is an argument used over an over again by the Nation Rifle Association: with control in place, only the criminals will have guns, we will be at their mercy.
There is no hiding an algorithm like Recursive Exhaustion from the criminals. Ultimately, there is no hiding our data from them either.
What about hiding it from ourselves, or others we may consider the “good guys”? I say that’s fundamentally impossible. There are masses of information available in public records. What to do about it? Should we withdraw it from public scrutiny? Make accessible only by the in-person request of individual users?
I think that falls into to “we should have thought about that” category. A large part of this data has been collected in digital form or transcribed into that form. Much of it is available on the Internet. Once public, always public, so the use of this information is legal. That means even the most well-meaning individuals determined to stay within the bounds of the law have access to a lot of information already. Using methods like recursive exhaustion, this can be multiplied millions of times. At least.
What criminals can do with a lot of illegally obtained information is truly staggering.
I have too much to say about this for one post. I will link to another, a copy of an article I published on Medium (which accepts almost anything for publication). It is about using anonymously collected data to derive good estimates of data otherwise unavailable for known individuals.