November 12, 2008

Are denial-of-insight attacks a threat to search logs and/or VOTC/VOTM apps?

TechTaxi points out that it’s at least theoretically possible to, by polluting the Web, pollute somebody’s web-wide information gathering. (Hat tip to Daniel Tunkelang.) They further assert this is a relatively near-term threat.

The theory can’t be denied. What’s more, bad actors have other motives to pollute the Web. For example, if they plant favorable automated comments about their own products or unfavorable about the competition’s, Voice of the Customer/Market applications will naturally be confused. And if automated reputation-checkers get more prominent, there will be a major incentive to game them, just as there has been for Google’s PageRank. So VOTC/VOTM market research tools could polluted as a side effect.

Similarly, if somebody wants to test your e-commerce site by throwing a ton of searches at it, your search logs will lose value.

But disinformation of competitors for the sake of disinformation? Or, as the article suggestions, vandalism/extortion? Off the top of my head, I’m not thinking of a serious near-term threat scenario.


2 Responses to “Are denial-of-insight attacks a threat to search logs and/or VOTC/VOTM apps?”

  1. Whit Andrews on November 12th, 2008 2:58 pm

    It’s comparatively unlikely to see pure malice as a likely development here. But on the other hand, consider the following scenarios:

    1. Easy Money. Click fraud has proved real, as has vigorous SEO. Why not have this follow the same path?

    2. Activism. SEO has been effectively exploited by activists to generate promotion for themselves by piggybacking their interests on those of “opponents” or targets.

    3. Simple zero-sum games. Why not push my own product? And if that causes damage to someone else’s, well — these things happen, right?

    Scenarios for the Hostile Information Ecosystem are, I regret, all too real.

  2. Curt Monash on November 13th, 2008 4:44 am


    I’m missing something here. What exactly are you suggesting for #1 and #2. And is #3 anything more than “Fake opinions spread to promote a product are … well, they’re fake opinions out there to be detected in general.”

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