Some observers also worry that people’s privacy could become compromised as more data about them from disparate sources is interlinked. But Semantic Web advocates argue that the protections are the same as those used in the non-linked world. If two databases joined by the Semantic Web have different privacy criteria, then the software will have to honor both sets of rules or create a set that covers both. When SAPPHIRE joins patient databases, it adheres to the privacy requirements of both or it won’t proceed; the nurses who had formerly performed the same mergers manually imposed the same practice.
The Semantic Web will probably operate more behind the scenes than the World Wide Web does. We won’t see how it helps Eli Lilly create personalized drugs; we’ll just buy them. We won’t know how Vodafone makes cool ring tones so readily available, but we’ll appreciate how easy they are to download. And yet, soon enough the Semantic Web will give more direct power to us, too, allowing us to go on eBay and not just say “find me the Toyota Priuses for sale” but “find me only used, red Priuses for sale for less than $14,000 by people who are within 80 miles of my house and make them an offer.” Grand visions rarely progress exactly as planned, but the Semantic Web is indeed emerging and is making online information more useful than ever.