|||

A more recent and less fictitious example is electronic logging devices on trucks. These are intended to limit the hours people drive, but what do you do if you’re caught ten miles from a motel?

The device logs only once a minute, so if you accelerate to 45 mph, and then make sure to slow down under the 10 mph threshold right at the minute mark, you can go as far as you want.

So we have these tired truckers staring at their phones, bunny-hopping down the freeway late at night.

Of course there’s an obvious technical countermeasure. You can start measuring once a second.

Notice what you’re doing, though. Now you’re in an adversarial arms race with another human being that has nothing to do with measurement. It’s become an issue of control, agency and power.

You thought observing the driver’s behavior would get you closer to reality, but instead you’ve put another layer between you and what’s really going on.

These kinds of arms races are a symptom of data disease. We’ve seen them reach the point of absurdity in the online advertising industry, which unfortunately is also the economic cornerstone of the web. Advertisers have built a huge surveillance apparatus in the dream of perfect knowledge, only to find themselves in a hall of mirrors, where they can’t tell who is real and who is fake.

Data disease”. What a term.

From Maciej Cegłowski’s talk at the Strata+Hadoop 2015 conference in NYC.

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