Friday, 27 September 2013

Data Rules But Not OK

So much of our government, work, lives and the rest is now driven by data sources and the nature of data that we have lost sight of how we used to function.  That is by instinct, experience, long acquired knowledge and joint effort.

Bruce Schneier in his expert and ever interesting blog on security has quoted this to give us some perspective.  The data, as this blog often argues, may not be as reliable as we think.


Interesting paper: "Three Paradoxes of Big Data," by Neil M. Richards and Jonathan H. King, Stanford Law Review Online, 2013


Big data is all the rage. Its proponents tout the use of sophisticated analytics to mine large data sets for insight as the solution to many of our society's problems. These big data evangelists insist that data-driven decision making can now give us better predictions in areas ranging from college admissions to dating to hiring to medicine to national security and crime prevention.

But much of the rhetoric of big data contains no meaningful analysis of its potential perils, only the promise. We don't deny that big data holds substantial potential for the future, and that large dataset analysis has important uses today. But we would like to sound a cautionary note and pause to consider big data's potential more critically.

In particular, we want to highlight three paradoxes in the current rhetoric about big data to help move us toward a more complete understanding of the big data picture.

First, while big data pervasively collects all manner of private information, the operations of big data itself are almost entirely shrouded in legal and commercial secrecy. We call this the Transparency Paradox.

Second, though big data evangelists talk in terms of miraculous outcomes, this rhetoric ignores the fact that big data seeks to identify at the expense of individual and collective identity. We call this the Identity Paradox.

And third, the rhetoric of big data is characterized by its power to transform society, but big data has power effects of its own, which privilege large government and corporate at the expense of ordinary individuals. We call this the Power Paradox.

Recognizing the paradoxes of big data, which show its perils alongside its potential, will help us to better understand this revolution. It may also allow us to craft solutions to produce a revolution that will be as good as its evangelists predict.


On the ancillary matter of personal security a very brief piece of advice says that Metadata Equals Surveillance which we may not like at all.

If you use any or all of these appliances then when you buy them this is what you get.

Perhaps we could do with a lot less data and rather more sense and sensibility.

No comments:

Post a Comment