The title of this post is the key question posed by the "Metropath(ologies)" exhibit at the MIT Museum, one of Boston's best-kept secrets. I had the chance to try out an on-line component of this exhibit called "Personas," an installation that comments beautifully on both the power and fallibility of data-mining.
When you enter your name into Personas, a computational process kicks off that assembles a "seemingly authoritative personal profile," beautifully presented as follows:
It's not meant to be useful or accurate, but to spur thoughts about reliability of algorithms being created inside "black boxes" that can have significant impact on our lives: showing up on the first page of search engine results, having misinformation about us "out there" for credit reviewers or hiring managers because of past indiscretions, sharing a name with someone else, or something as simple as a misapplied tag to a photo on a social networking site, etc.
Although it took me a while to discern what is meant by "illegal" in my results (it's not as bad as I had thought, but it did indeed make me think!), I enjoyed not only the visualization of my "on-line identity", but also the thought that the artist put into the project.