May 19, 2011 § 2 Comments
Wikipedia features as one of the resources with greatest impact in disseminating knowledge. A search in Google for computational biology returns the Wikipedia entry #1 in the hit list (Figure 1). A search for biological databases in Google, again, it returns the corresponding Wikipedia entry top of the list. Search for genomics, proteomics or metabolomics. Still, the top result is Wikipedia.
This behavior of appearing top of the hit list in Google happens for most things that are searched in Wikipedia. In fact Wikipedia currently ranks #5 in the list of most visited sites on the Internet. This prominence on Google searches are the result of the great number of links that compose any Wikipedia entry, which in turn is linked by many other entries within and outside Wikipedia.
The success of Wikipedia, initially attributable to the experiment of engaging a community-wide effort to provide accurate and accessible information to the general public has led to a massive development of the resource. Even in scientific circles it features as an important source of reasonably up-to-date reference knowledge .
Figure 2 shows a snapshot of the current computational biology article in Wikipedia. It does not mention any of the breakthroughs the field has experienced since the advent of the Human Genome Project or Journals or even Scientists who have shaped the field.
The ability to engage a community-wide effort and the high ranks any entry in Wikipedia occupies in a Google search make it an ideal vehicle for development of dissemination of the significance of Computational Biology. It is the people who work in this field that are ultimately responsible to make sure that their findings and work are known to the tax payer.
February 16, 2010 § 1 Comment
“Privacy is dead. Get over it”. People who have famously said this or something similar include Scott McNealy (CEO Sun Microsystems), Eric Schmidt (CEO Google) and Mark Zuckerberg (Founder of Facebook).
Some of the reasons that justify why not having privacy is OK include “if you do something that you want nobody to know, maybe you should not do it on the first place” or “people are ever more comfortable with sharing information about themselves”.
These arguments are all well and good. However, the other side of the coin is when personal information is used by strangers to take advantage of the person, let alone potential misinterpretations or simply gossip.
Is this interconnectedness worth exchanging for personal privacy? ‘Clever’ algorithms are constantly crawling the web in search of personal information. The degree to which these algorithms are more effective at spamming you is proportional to the amount of public information about you on the web.
Have you ever said anything or joined an internet group you would rather not join now? Unfortunately it is likely that this information will never disappear. Even if you delete it from your profile, it is probable that some web crawling algorithm has stored that information somewhere.
It has only been until recently when users have a tighter control over the information they make available to the web in Facebook for instance. Default settings are indeed terrifying in terms of the information of one’s profile made available to search engines.
Despite the possibility of being able to control how much information one makes public, this is not the end of the story: I have found situations where pieces of information in my profile were picked by a friend without me knowing it. True, it is specified in the settings how much you want to make public. Nevertheless, even though I have unselected information from my public profile, who knows who would have looked at it.
Not that I have anything to hide but I would rather keep quiet about my personal interests rather than sharing them widely. Surely a better knowledge of my personal profile could facilitate the way to finding more easily passwords and even breaking into my bank account.
Have we now reached a point of no return in privacy?