Six Degrees of Seperation

Following on from the age old story of “six degrees of separation”, a detailed study involving 30 billion instant messages has been conducted by Microsoft.

The research showed that people are linked by, on average 6.8 people – so its closer to 7 than 6. This is not original research and similar studies – but on a much smaller scale have been conducted before. In 2001 a similar study was conducted with 48,000 emails messages. Other experiments have also been conducted using letter writing. Several examples of this are in Wiki

While this study may be interesting, it will not doubt provide added  concern for those who are  already concerned about the Governments ever increasing databases of their populations.

With every person in the UK being linked to every other person in the UK by an average of 6.8 people, it means that we are just 6.8 emails, text messages, or address books away from a “terrorist”. What if your connection is just 5 hops from a terrorist sympathizer or 4.0 hops from a terrorist fund raiser? Does that mean you get picked up? What if you a chemist who is 3 hops away from a terrorist, because of where you live, and then your bio is : lives near a terrorist, went to school with a terrorist,  has a degree in Chemistry and therefore understands explosives – what action will the agency be taking then?

With the 7/7 Investigation collecting upto 10% of the phone calls of the UK Muslim population (though it could be a lot less) , surely its easy to find lots of false leads and patterns – all pointing to innocent people? In fact we know this happens the numerous examples of mistaken Identity occurring over and over again.

Also – is Microsoft building a database of who talks to who, how often, and when?

Note: The BBC incorrectly reported this research to be about text messages, not instant messages

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2 Responses to “Six Degrees of Seperation”

  1. Social Networking and Time Machines « Data - Where is it? Says:

    […] just a tale, but is true, and has shown to be true on  several seperate studies, including one by Microsoft involving 30 billion MSN […]

  2. Data Retention: Email, Email Monitoring and ISPs « Data - Where is it? Says:

    […] The commonly held belief of a maximum “Six Degrees of separation” between any two pepople, which has been shown to be true on several occasions, could be used […]


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