Oil vs. Digital records, Repetition of history in the form of fuel for artificial intelligence

Somayyeh Gholami
The Startup
Published in
9 min readDec 23, 2018


If the specific mechanism enables each person to collect his/her digital records(of behavioral tracking) during the course of her/his life and manages its own data, would be a great treasure for everyone. In this case, bots and crawlers of Google, Facebook and …… will be replaced by personal bots or at least forced to collaborate and work with personal bots. Since personal data is entirely available to their own personal bots.

The authors of the article are Ms. Somayyeh Gholami and Mr. Mehran Kazeminia and it is written in Persian and English versions in December 2018.

Persian Article

In recent years, companies like Facebook and Google have been earned $ billions from online advertising. The initiative, creativity, and innovation of their managers and staff were the most important factor in these successes. But certainly, the feed and fuel of this process are the online tracking of web users or digital records of individual behavior which are gradually and constantly collected and stored by these companies. In other words, in many cases, there were no today’s successes without accessing and using digital records of individual behavior. Let’s remind that the use of artificial intelligence is based only on information and details.

In this regard, many efforts have been made to predict the private traits and attributes of individuals through access to their digital records. There are also numerous research papers and articles on this subject. For example, in 2012, in the PNAS article, by using a statistical sample of fifty eight thousand, demonstrated that digital records accessible of Facebook can predict automatically and accurately a wide range of personal characteristics, such as sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political perspectives, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age, and gender. Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018 was in this context, and you probably remember, in 2018, the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg who gave testimony to Senate committees about Facebook’s data privacy practices in the wake of the company’s Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal

Other efforts have been made for transparency, such as Data Selfie, which is an extension of the Chrome browser, to help people figure out how much Facebook knows about them. By downloading Data Selfie, this software tracks people’s activity just like Facebook but the goal of Data Selfie is to show how much users’ information is traceable without being informed them.

Data selfie >> The information you share consciously and unconsciously

Meanwhile, this subject is important in various aspects, for example, it’s quite clear that companies like Facebook, Google, and … by collecting more and more users’ information, they will earn more. On the contrary, if we are optimistic and do not conceive any further misuse in the future! Maybe these circumstances are not bad for users. For example, users can more easily find their favorite books or other similar items.

But the fact is people often do not even have access to and manage their own information, and there is really no way to personal utilization of this available information. For example, people can never modify their information or develop and integrate it, or they can not provide this information to other advertising companies, or their counselor or psychiatrist. Meanwhile, storing, processing and analyzing this information with the help of artificial intelligence can have other achievements in personal form, but for the time being, everything is in possession and monopoly of the companies who collect and process this information. The main question of this article is the same, is it fair and rational that the society members, without access to their own information, have only a very limited share of these achievements?

A special mechanism that enables each person to collect her/his digital records throughout her/his life and manage its data, is a great treasure for everyone. At the same time, by using artificial intelligence and personal bots, more can be achieved for the society. In this case, bots and crawlers of Google, Facebook and …… will be replaced by personal bots or at least forced to collaborate and work with personal bots. Since personal data is entirely available to their own personal robots.

Repetition the history of oil, this time for the digital records of individual behavior.

After World War II, Oil had an important role to play in the advancement of the industrial world. Every day, the various industries and vehicles demands for oil have been increasing directly and indirectly, and oil was called “black gold”. Many countries that owned oil reserves were long unaware of the importance and value of oil and had conceded the right to explore and exploit their reserves at the lowest prices. The people and governments of these countries usually referred to oil as black and smelly substance, worthless, which easily burns. But when they gradually realized the importance and real value of oil, they increased the price of oil sales, and even in many cases they cancelled the previous agreements and considered them cruel.

The digital records of individual behavior are, in many cases, like oil, and even it can be given the title “digital gold “. Until twenty years ago, it was just conceivable for few people to earn billions of dollars through collecting and storing insignificant information (in the form of digital records of individual behavior). Some have moved forward step by step in this direction, and their achievements were billion dollar companies for themselves, which also have made more prosperity in the lives of the people of the world.

At first look, everything seems to fit. But fuel and feed to generate this astronomical revenue are the digital records of individuals which currently its ownership and management, in practice, is exclusively for these companies. As already mentioned, it does not seem to be rational and fair the continuation of this process. Individuals should have the primary role in the ownership, management, and utilization of their own information.

Oil vs. Digital Records

The reasons for increasing the value of digital records are similar to oil, both boosted their value from the huge revenues that industrial or technology companies earned by their efforts and using oil or digital records. Certainly, at the beginning of work, original owners did not have a role to play in earning money, but after understanding the matter, original owners’ demand for a major share is quite reasonable and fair. For this reason, perhaps the history of oil will be repeated and we will be witness to a lot of legal debates on the ownership of digital records of individual behavior.

Why do people need to store their digital records?

Perhaps the ambiguity is: we know that Facebook, Google and …… do not recognize their users and store users’ digital records to help knowing them more. But why should individual keep their own digital records when they can express their own opinions, tastes and need about any subject?

First of all, people are not precise in describing themselves and their taste. Secondly, human memory is very limited. For example, in digital records can be stored constantly all the Internet addresses that a person has visited during a period of time or her/his life and even real addresses and locations (using GPS and …) along with details such as the duration of the staying and … , but the people’s memory does not have such capacity. Thirdly, artificial intelligence requires a lot of information and details to make the right decision and conclusion. The more related information and details are provided, the more artificial intelligence’s efficiency is increased. That’s why Facebook does not have a special questionnaire for every subject and advertisement. But knowing people and predict their personal traits are on the basis of digital records of individuals. The required questionnaire for each subject would be very massive and certainly not feasible. For example, imagine Pinterest wants to find and provide your desired picture by the information obtained from a questionnaire! We all know this is not possible.

Do you trust Google to protect your data?

The great progress and development of artificial intelligence in recent years has been directly influenced by increasing information and detail. This information is usually stored on the Internet or…… And for this reason, digital records of individuals can be a great investment for themselves, since they are the best feed for artificial intelligence in different aspects; variety, details, integrity, and accuracy. Surely, storing this information over time can provide the highest precision for personal bots. The volume of users’ information in companies such as Facebook and Google is not low, but it’s not comparable to the volume of information in digital records of individuals behavior which would be stored by personal bots. It’s said that Facebook, only by considering 10 Likes on Facebook, can predict personality and behavior of individual better than their colleagues, 70 Likes better than neighbors, 150 Likes better than parents, and 300 Likes even better than a spouse!

Let’s imagine that personal robot, by reaching all digital records of an individual throughout his/her life and by using the highest achievements of artificial intelligence how could be useful and close to humans. These robots identify personality traits deeply and with a wealth of accurate information, can serve people.

How do personal bots work?
What is the mechanism for storing digital records?

To design personal robots, a lot of experiences and achievements in machine learning and artificial intelligence are available. The experiences of Google and Facebook for smart advertising campaigns, Telegram bots, virtual assistant of Microsoft and Amazon, as well as dozens of related software, are practical knowledge in this regard.

In addition, the various and different functionalities of personal bots is familiar to all of us. Suppose you’re going to read the news, just like what Pinterest does for a photo, your own personal bots does for the headline. It means, according to your taste and interests, it provides you the headline of the news. Now, suppose you are planning a trip, you will find all the appropriate choices, for example, tickets and hotels, sorted in accordance with your usual taste and your latest desires.

The personal bots may take a little bit of time but will always update themselves with new information that indirectly obtains from your digital records. To store personal information and records, personal bots rely on the provided memory, but surely this information is encrypted so that only individuals themselves can decide to utilize it through a personal bot. The users may want to use their laptop’s memory(local storage) to store their digital records, or they can get help from Cloud storage or storage servers of largest companies, and perhaps decentralized networks and Blockchain technology can provide protection and exclusive use of information.

Digital Records >> Selfie

The most important part of the subject and the difference with today’s situation is that people should be able to decide for their own digital records, and ownership and management of this information should only be put in their hands. Unfortunately, now this is not the case and there is not even a mechanism for individuals to use their digital records, whenever they need, for their personal use or to send to the advertising company or psychologist or whoever they desired.

Here’s the end of the article and we look forward to receiving your feedback.

December 23, 2018
Somayyeh Gholami
Mehran Kazeminia


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Somayyeh Gholami
The Startup

Master of Applied Computer science (Specializing in BioMedical/Health) at VUB university