Instead of working on my backlog of half-finished drafts, Big Data issues keep on popping up. A while ago, I posted a longer piece on Big Citizen Data, and remarked that a lot of seemingly 20th century issues on data quality and sampling bias are being steadfastly ignored nowadays. Jonas Lerman has published an excellent argument on the Standford Law Review on the matter of exclusion through digital invisibility. To cite the abstract:
“Legal debates over the “big data” revolution currently focus on the risks of inclusion: the privacy and civil liberties consequences of being swept up in big data’s net. This Essay takes a different approach, focusing on the risks of exclusion: the threats big data poses to those whom it overlooks. Billions of people worldwide remain on big data’s periphery. Their information is not regularly collected or analyzed, because they do not routinely engage in activities that big data is designed to capture. Consequently, their preferences and needs risk being routinely ignored when governments and private industry use big data and advanced analytics to shape public policy and the marketplace. Because big data poses a unique threat to equality, not just privacy, this Essay argues that a new “data antisubordination” doctrine may be needed.” (source: Stanford Law Review, 03.09.2013).
The article is well worth reading, even if the second part is unfamiliar territory for those not well-versed in US law (e.g. me).
It made me rethink (though not change) my attitude towards some of the popular means of getting citizen (customer) information: If no precautions and countermeasures are taken, the socially and financially disadvantaged may actually want to share as much of their data on shopping, leisure activities and other preferences in order to prevent being completely marginalized…