Metamodern Technology. Privacy. How Big Data is Used


Nightfall. A flow of data streams from IPs across the city-scape, running through fiber optic cable at the speed of light. All of it is recorded by various enterprises and agencies using network TAPs. So how do they work?

By Jonathan Brand

If you’re not a nerd, skip to this paragraph’s last sentence now. Here’s a technical description: TAPs are high-impedance devices connected in series to the electronic signals or data packets of a computer network. There are generally two varieties, copper and fiber. A copper connection is physically part of the network, so in some instances it can interfere with bandwidth/data transmission in its monitoring capacity. Devices with copper connectivity can be used for surveillance over a 10/100/1000 configuration but run the risk of detection or interference if continuous 12v DC power to the unit is lost.

For passively monitoring a 10 Gbps network, optical or fiber network TAPs can offer full duplex monitoring of A and B ports and achieve passive surveillance by physically splitting light as it passes through the fiber optic cables of your network. Modern network TAPs in 2015 are based on a 2002 US patent that laid the groundwork for a class of undetectable eavesdropping equipment reminiscent of the 20th century’s phone TAP. In short, this technology is invisible to web users and it’s been deployed by industrialized governments around the world. As Kurt Vonnegut said, so it goes.

Metamodern Technology. Privacy and Big Data Sharing.

“The real implication of the post-privacy age is that you’re going to be marketed to more effectively.”

Imagine that tapping fiber networks resulted in a list of addresses and emails of US web users who spent one minute or more on a pet-related website in the last 8 hrs.

Such lists can be purchased by major pet goods suppliers to assist in the targeting of their marketing efforts. To understand how big data is used after it’s collected by a network TAP, apply that scenario to every trade and industry.

Thus, the collection of your personal data doesn’t put your identity or credit card information at risk, it targets the ads you receive. The real implication of the post-privacy age is that you’re going to be marketed to more effectively.


Daybreak. In March 2012, a student named Allen at Drake University in Des Moines, IA reported that he sent an email message to his girlfriend using gmail. In his message, author, Kurt Vonnegut, came up several times as Allen recommended reading three of his books including Breakfast of Champions. Approximately 24 hours after sending the Google email message to his girlfriend, Allen logged on to Facebook and noticed targeted ads on the right hand column of his screen offering ironic Kurt Vonnegut t-shirts for sale.

“The odds are one in 10,000,” reports the sophomore at Drake, “I had never seen an ad related to Kurt Vonnegut on Facebook before writing that email. 99% of people have absolutely no idea who Kurt Vonnegut is so that ad was directed at me. The best explanation is the simplest, most logical one: Google shares email data with Facebook. I was logged into gmail through chrome, so my IP address was known to Google.”

Metamodern Technology. Data and Privacy.A Kurt Vonnegut T-Shirt that reads: “So it goes”. (I wanted basic privacy, but instead I got this t-shirt.)

“Within 24 hours of sending my personal message through gmail, Google apparently shared an aggregated list of keywords and IP addresses pulled from the private, most recent emails of its users. I logged onto Facebook, it saw my IP and matched it with the address of a recent gmail containing the keyword, ‘Kurt Vonnegut’.

Next it looked for a match in its database of active advertisers. In this case it found one, and not for nothing but the Kurt Vonnegut t-shirts were hysterical and right up my alley. I almost bought one.”

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