10 votes

What colour are your bits?

2 comments

  1. skybrian
    (edited )
    Link
    It seems somewhat related to how provenance works in law. I’m not a lawyer, but as I understand it, evidence doesn’t speak for itself. You need to know the history of how the evidence was...

    It seems somewhat related to how provenance works in law. I’m not a lawyer, but as I understand it, evidence doesn’t speak for itself. You need to know the history of how the evidence was gathered. There is a chain of custody that shows it wasn’t tampered with. If you don’t know where the evidence came from, it can’t be trusted.

    So, there is the thing itself and there is the history and context of the thing, and they are both important. We try to keep them together, but this connection doesn’t happen automatically and can be severed or falsified.

    As an example: a product and its price. The price roughly summarizes information about how it was made and how valuable people think it is, which are not attributes of the thing itself and often can’t be deduced from it. In some cases we physically attach a label, the price tag, to keep track.

    For imports, by law you need to keep track of country of origin. There are also various other labels. For food, whether it’s organic and its ingredients. (You might be able to figure this out from testing, but it’s harder than just keeping track.)

    Another example: a photo and information about when and where it was taken. There is a way to attach metadata to the photo, but it could be removed or falsified. A tamper-proof camera that digitally signs photos might help when it’s important to guard against tampering, but usually we are guessing or just trusting that it wasn't changed.

    Too often on the Internet, we share information with its source removed, and then it’s little better than gossip, or more charitably a hint that needs to be confirmed.

    In a computer program, we don’t keep track of provenance by default, for performance. It tends to happen when the data is stored, by a file system or database or git repo. You have to write code to do it.

    It seems entirely natural to want our computers to keep track of the history of information, even if it’s not very automatic, not yet anyway. It’s also very common to want to remove the origin of some information, for privacy. These desires are in tension and will no doubt result in more messy compromises.

    5 votes
  2. Cycloneblaze
    Link
    This is an old post and, judging by the author's comment at the bottom, it's been around a few times, but I don't think it's been on Tildes. I'd be interested to hear if anyone's built on this...

    This is an old post and, judging by the author's comment at the bottom, it's been around a few times, but I don't think it's been on Tildes.

    I'd be interested to hear if anyone's built on this idea in the last, oh, sixteen years, because I haven't seen it articulated elsewhere. (The follow-up article addresses some of these.)

    (The focus on obscenity / child pornography in the comments is a bit tiresome, though... that definitely wasn't the standout thought in the article to me.)

    1 vote