One of the biggest challenges for DBAs and programmers is deciding when to keep information and when to discard it. Good records are both the product of a natural, protective instinct, and a requirement for many businesses. That’s why websites and businesses need detailed tracking information to offer the most customization and assistance. But this information is also turning into a big responsibility and potential liability. Customers expect their privacy to be protected, and everyone is well-aware that the right information can create opportunities for crimes when it falls into the wrong hands. Identity fraud is a frightening new crime. When is it the right time to keep data and when should it be destroyed completely? Sometimes a DBA can take both paths. They can destroy the information while retaining the ability to use it. I recently completed a case study of Amazon’s computer system in order to test some of the work I’ve been doing on my book Translucent Databases. Amazon is well-known for providing some of the best service by keeping detailed records on their customers. I wanted to see how many of these services I could provide without keeping detailed personalized records. As far as I can tell, all of Amazon’s personalized service falls into these basic classes:
- Special Choices — If someone bought a book by John Grisham last year, Amazon displays a picture of his new book when they return to the website.
- Faster Checkout– There’s no need to type in your shipping address and credit card information each trip.
- SPAM Notices– Anyone who bought a book by John Grisham may receive an email notice telling them that a new book by the author has become available.
Peter Wayner is the author of 12 books including Translucent Databases, an exploration of many different techniques for building databases that do useful work without holding any useful information.
His latest book, Java RAMBO Manifesto investigates how and when you can speed up your application by throwing away your database.
Published with the express written permission of the author. Copyright 20]]>