Be Careful What You Wishlist For...

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This is an eye opening and interesting account of how Tom Oward was able to data mine Amazon’s wish list database to get a profile of “subversives” based on their requested reading list. Makes you think twice before adding a book to your wishlist.

Using a pair of 5-year-old computers, two home DSL connections, 42 hours of computer time, and 5 man hours, I now had documents describing the reading preferences of 260,000 U.S. citizens.

I downloaded all the files to an external 120 GB Firewire drive in UFS format. The raw data occupied little more than 5 GB. I initially wanted to move all the files into a single directory to facilitate searching, but as the directory contents exceeded 100,000 items, the speed became glacially slow, so I kept the data divided into chunks of 25,000 wishlists.

Next comes the fun part – what books are most dangerous? So many to choose from. Here’s a sample of the list I made. Feel free to make up your own list if you decide to try some data mining. Send it to the FBI. I’m sure they’ll appreciate your help in fighting terrorism.


[Via Boing Boing]

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2 responses

  1. Avatar for Concerned Oba
    Concerned Oba January 4th, 2006

    I am a lesbian. How does this affect me?

    Also, I have placed several subversive books on my wish list because I am going to buy them for the writer of this blog. FBI, please direct all surveilance in the direction of

  2. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked January 4th, 2006

    Well you already got me one subversive book. The author of the book even suggests not leaving it in plain sight... ;)