The personal data mined from our internet and social media use has enormous potential to inform productivity, innovation and our understanding of human behaviour. But do all the claims add up? 

In the latest issue of Uniken, Associate Professor Kate Crawford, Prinicpal Researcher at MIcrosoft Research, busts some big data myths. 

The promoters of big data would like us to believe that behind the lines of code and vast databases lie objective and universal insights into patterns of human behaviour, be it consumer spending, criminal or terrorist acts, healthy habits, or employee productivity. But many big-data evangelists avoid taking a hard look at the weaknesses.

Numbers can’t speak for themselves, and data sets – no matter their scale – are still objects of human design. The tools of big data science do not immunise us from skews, gaps and faulty assumptions.

And while many big-data providers do their best to de-identify individuals from human-subject data sets, the risk of re-identification is very real.

Given the immense amount of information collected about us every day – including Facebook clicks, GPS data, healthcare prescriptions and Netflix queues – we must decide sooner rather than later whom we can trust with that information, and for what purpose. 

Read the full article here.


25 Crawford