Defining Profiling: A New Type of Knowledge?

  • Mireille Hildebrandt

In this first chapter a set of relevant distinctions will be made to explore old and new ways of profiling, making a first attempt to define the type of profiling that is the subject of this publication. The text explains how profiling or pattern recognition allows us to discriminate noise from information on the basis of the knowledge that is constructed, providing a sophisticated way of coping with the increasing abundance of data. The major distinctions discussed are between individual and group profiles (often combined in personalised profiling), between distributive and non-distributive group profiles and between construction and application of profiles. Having described automated profiling we will compare such machine profiling to organic and human profiling, which have been crucial competences for the survival of both human and non-human organisms. The most salient difference between organic and machine profiling may be the fact that as a citizen, consumer or employee we find ourselves in the position of being profiled, without access to the knowledge that is used to categorise and deal with us. This seems to impair our personal freedom, because we cannot adequately anticipate the actions of those that know about us what we may not know about ourselves.


Customer Relationship Management Data Mining Technique Data Subject Ambient Intelligence Autonomic Computing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aarts, E. and Marzano, S., (eds.), The New Everyday. Views on Ambient Intelligence. 010 Publishers, Rotterdam, 2003.Google Scholar
  2. Bourcier, D., ‘De l’intelligence artificielle à la personne virtuelle: émergence d’une entité juridique?’, Droit et Société, Vol. 49, l’Association française Droit et Société, Paris, 2001, pp. 847–871.Google Scholar
  3. Custers, B., The Power of Knowledge. Ethical, Legal, and Technological Aspects of Data Mining and Group Profiling in Epidemiology, Wolf Legal Publishers, Nijmegen, 2004.Google Scholar
  4. de Waal, F.B.M., The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections of a Primatologist, Basis Books, New York, 2001.Google Scholar
  5. Edens, J.R., ‘Misuses of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised in Court’, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 16, No. 10, Sage publications, London, 2001, pp. 1082–1094.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gladwell, M., Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 2005.Google Scholar
  7. International Telecommunications Union (ITU), The Internet of Things, 7th Internet ITU report, 2005. Available (for purchase) at:
  8. ISTAG (Information Society Technology Advisory Group), Scenarios for Ambient Intelligence in 2010, IST–IPTS report, EC, 2001. Available at:
  9. Jaquet–Chiffelle D.-O., Benoist, E., Anrig, B., ‘Virtual? Identity’, Chapter 3 of Nabeth, T. et al. (eds), Set of use cases and scenarios, FIDIS Deliverable 2.2, European Union IST FIDIS Project, 2006a. Available at:
  10. Jaquet–Chiffelle D.-O., Benoist, E., Anrig B, ‘Virtual persons applied to authorization, individual authenticatinon and identification’, Jaquet–Chiffelle D.-O., Benoist, E., Anrig B. (eds.) FIDIS brochure Deliverable 2.6, ‘Identity in a Networked World: Use Cases and Scenarios’, 2006b, pp. 6 and 7. Avalable at www.Vip.Ch
  11. Kephart, J.O., Chess, D.M., ‘The Vision of Autonomic Computing’, Computer, Vol. 36, No. 1, IEEE Computer Society, Washington DC, 2003, pp. 41–50.Google Scholar
  12. Lawton, G., ‘Machine-to-Machine Technology Gears Up for Growth’, Computer, Vol. 37, No. 9, IEEE Computer Society, Washington DC, Sept. 2004, pp. 12–15.Google Scholar
  13. Leenes, R. and Koops, B.J., ‘ ‘Code’: Privacy’s Death or Saviour?’, International Review of Law Computers & Technology, Vol. 19, No. 3, Routledge, Oxford, 2005, pp. 329–340.Google Scholar
  14. Maturana, H.R. and Varela, F.J., Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living, Reidel, Dordrecht, 1991.Google Scholar
  15. Maturana, H. R., Varela, F.J., The Tree of Knowledge. The Biological Roots of Human Understanding, Shambala, Boston and London, 1998 (revised edition).Google Scholar
  16. Peirce, Ch.S., Pragmatism as a Principle and Method of Right Thinking. The 1903 Harvard Lectures on Pragmatism, edited and introduced with a commentary by Patricia Ann Turrisi, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1997.Google Scholar
  17. Peppers, D., Rogers, M., The One to One Future, Currency, New York, 1993.Google Scholar
  18. Plessner, H, Die Stufen des Organischen under der Mensch. Einleitung in die philosophische Anthropologie, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt, 1975.Google Scholar
  19. Polanyi, M., The Tacit Dimension, Anchor Books, Garden City, New York, 1966.Google Scholar
  20. Rafter, R. and Smyth, B., ‘Passive Profiling from Server Logs in an Online Recruitment Environment’, paper presented at the IJCAI’s Workshop on Intelligent Techniques for Web Personalization, Seattle, Washington 4–6 August 2001. Available at
  21. Rasch, G., Probabilistic Models for Some Intelligence and Attainment Tests, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1980.Google Scholar
  22. Schauer, F., Profiles Probabilities and Stereotypes, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. London, England, 2003.Google Scholar
  23. Spangler, W. E., Hartzel K. S. and Gal-Or M., ‘Exploring the Privacy Implications of Addressable Advertising and Viewer Profiling’, Communications of the ACM, Vol. 49, No. 5, ACM Press, New York, 2006, pp. 119–123.Google Scholar
  24. Stergiou, C. and Siganos, D., ‘Neural Networks and their Users’, Surprise 96 Journal, Vol. 4, Department of Science Technology and Medicin, Imperial College London, London, 1996. Available at:
  25. Thorndike, R.L. (ed.), Educational Measurement, American Council on Education, Washington, D. C., 2nd edition, 1971.Google Scholar
  26. Turvey, B., Criminal profiling: An introduction to behavioral evidence analysis, Academic Press, New York, 1999.Google Scholar
  27. Van Brakel, J., ‘Telematic Life Forms’, Techné: Journal of the Society for Philosophy and Technology, Vol. 4, No. 3, DLA, Blacksburg, 1999. Available at
  28. Vedder, A., “KDD: The challenge to individualism.” Ethics and Information Technology, Volume 1, Number 4, Springer, 1999, pp. 275–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Weiser, M., ‘The Computer for the Twenty-First Century’, Scientific American, 265, 3, Scientific American Inc, New York, 1991, pp. 94–104.Google Scholar
  30. Wilkie, William L. and Moore, E.S., ‘Scholarly Research in Marketing: Exploring the “4 Eras” of Thought Development’, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Vol. 22, No. 2, AMA Publications, Chicago, 2003, pp. 116–146.Google Scholar
  31. Zarsky, Tal Z., ‘ “Mine Your Own Business!”: Making the Case for the Implications of the Data Mining of Personal Information in the Forum of Public Opinion’, Yale Journal of Law & Technology, Vol. 5, 2002–2003. Available at:

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mireille Hildebrandt
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Vrije Universiteit BrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Erasmus Universiteit RotterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations