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The dangers of mining

May 31, 2016

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Marketers love it, health care relies on, even politicians are now betting on it. Big data is changing the way we perceive our life. But, a tremendous advantage of search engines, tech devices and smartphone applications come with a price. Concerns about privacy invasions are real and rise beyond the worry, who might see the data and how it could be manipulated.

One example of big data significance came to light during a Cambridge University study. After processing tens of thousands of Likes on Facebook with the idea to predict gender, race or sexual orientation the outcome was shockingly accurate. The model could differentiate gay men from straight, identify race and even anticipate behaviours, such as how much alcohol someone consumed. As marketers are increasingly betting on data mining to target their audience, many people are now concerned that all the information the government, health care or schools are putting online might be abused for profiling. What is worse, the methods used in the process may not always be as impartial and cold as the computers are.

Recently the Data Privacy Lab at Harvard University scrutinised Google ad results and found out the information often came along with biases of the humans who created the code. For instance, when searching for names on the internet, some were associated with race and crime inclination. They have since fixed this particular issue, although Google never publicly stated how the problem got corrected.

The black hole of the internet is growing by the day, yet the mantra stays the same: What goes in, might come out!

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From → Hic Salta

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