Found this on Slashdot.org today: " Metadata in Vista Could Be Too Helpful."
"Windows Vista will improve search functionality on a PC by letting
users tag files with metadata, but those tags could cause unwanted and
embarrassing information disclosure, Gartner analysts have warned. Search and organization capabilities
are among the primary features of Windows Vista, the successor to
Windows XP due out late in 2006. While building those features,
Microsoft is not paying enough attention to managing the descriptive
information, or metadata, that users can add to files to make it easier
to find and organize data on a PC, according to Gartner. ‘This opens up
the possibility of the inadvertent disclosure of this metadata
to other users inside and outside of your organization,’ Gartner
analysts Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald wrote in a research note
published on Thursday."
Well, okay, that’s ‘in whole’, but the idea doesn’t change with that (the links are live and very much worth checking out.) The question remains for at least some of us with a touch of paranoia like myself (can I have a show of hands? Oh, come on, I know there are more of you out there than that . . . come on . . . you three in the back, let’s see those hands . . . I thought so . . . yeah, that’s more like it), which is more desirable, secure data or hyper-sensitive search capability?
I know most people who come into the Academy library are not metadata whizzes. Some of them are: the professional researchers know the differences between searching for authors, title, subject, call number, and keyword, and they tend to devise very carefully scripted search strategies to make use of this knowledge. I’m willing to bet, though, that most people (more than 75% I’d roughly guess) use the title or the author (title is more common in my experience) and the keyword searches are by far the most common from what I’ve seen. This is not a problem per se, as long as one is willing to acknowledge that they keyword searches are the least likely to return useful results: you will get results, several tens of thousands of them (up to millions if you use Google or Yahoo! or another major search engine.)
So with this in mind, has anyone thought to do a study on how people utilize search patterns on their desktops at work and/or home? I’m not sure how one would design such a study–I know there have been a number of studies that track how people search at library computers, but those may not help us here because there’s no way of knowing if those same people are searching for data different at the library, where the systems are set up by librarians and their IT departments, than they are on their home PCs, where they are either customizing their desktops or, more often, and therefore more likely, using whatever searching software was given to them by Microsoft or Apple.
My point is that most people are not all that computer savvy, and so they probably don’t put much thought into how to search for data, or even what data they should be searching for on a given project. Which I think makes this question of trading off security for descriptive power even more important. (Deep down, I’d like this to not be a question of trading off one for the other but I haven’t been able to imagine how other than to think that technology companies should probably be thinking about security issues before they think about features. Yet.) What does worry me is the fact that Microsoft (with Vista) and Apple (through Sherlock), and Google (through Google Desktop) and other companies I can’t think of right now are developing these search strategies for us by creating search interfaces that are becoming more powerful (or rather potentially powerful, considering that most people won’t use them to fullest advantage.) Is that wise? Considering that people will generally buy convenience and cool features before security, is there anything to be done for it? And if so, then what?
Does this make any sense? Or am I just being paranoid?