Editorials

What Starts to Happen if We Democratize Data

We’ve talked before about data privacy vs. ownership of data vs. sharing for the “common good.”

I do believe it’s going to be a hard ethical hill to climb with potential for big payoff. Steve Ballmer has just come out with USAFacts. It represents a massive trove of information that you can work against and use to learn more about all sorts of things in the US.

It’s a great example of what happens when we start aggregating meaningful data and making it available. I can’t wait to see what new discoveries come out of it all, and what surprise relationships are found.

But this is just the tip of the spear in terms of what can be learned and applied. l’ve always struggled with big, massive database options that are out there. It seems in so many cases that when they go big, the data usefulness can go small. The typical things started off as weather databases, populations and the like. There are more data stores out there, of course, but it was frustrating.

Here’s a bit of information on the USAFacts project.

This specific project is oriented toward data stores in support of producing reporting on government spending, programs and such.

The work that goes into making this type of major data flow available for review though, is very important.

I still don’t know how we work out protection of information, sharing of information, where the line is on personally identifiable information and who will make those calls. I know people that feel that anything at all to do with them, from color of socks to buying habits to extremely vague things are all personally owned information. I also know people that don’t give their information a second thought, including things like identifiable medical records, financial records, etc.

It’s going to be a very interesting ride.

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  • Eilenblogger

    At this point most of the raw data about you goes out the door every time you use Facebook to login to something.

    Most folks are using the Facebook authentication as a login to their site. The Washington Post, etc.

    When you accept the authentication terms and conditions you have more than likely forked over all your profile info, friends, friends of friends, etc.

    Then you might make a comment on a story. Even if you don’t comment on an article, the articles you view can be collected as data about you.

    The comments you make are pushed through a sentiment analysis and more information is collected about you.

    Then you see some cute Facebook bait that asks you to take a quiz on your knowledge of medical terms, or an IQ test (right…). When you share a meme, and on and on.

    We’ve just watched the Russians use that data to feed us “news” that we are likely to believe based on the analysis all of this data. That fake news is used to reinforce our prejudices against one candidate and bolster another candidate.

    One could argue that the worst possible outcome has already happened. But those folks underestimate the desire of businesses to “corporatize” the same type of data.

    For instance, I could start a company that provides profile summaries on employment candidates for HR departments.

    Now think of all those quizzes you’ve been taking in Facebook all these years and all the comments you have made. Were they negative comments on some desired financial regulations on a potential employer in the financial sector?

    Sorry folks, but most of us are already toast in this regard. What the corporations won’t understand in the beginning is that the lack of diversity and opposing opinions and “radical” thought that shapes their culture as a result of this new found power will ultimately do more harm than good.

    The roller coaster is just climbing another loop right now, then down and around we go, screaming, laughing and crying.

    Then someone will build a newer and better roller coaster. Eventually there’ll be an “accident” and the roller coaster will need to be shut down for “repairs”.

    Ad Infinitum until our society is a complete dystopia.