How To Use Online Data For Good

How You Killed Privacy, But Can Redeem Yourself

You want transparency, and yet want privacy. The 5th Amendment goes so far as to prevent you from incriminating yourself. As time goes on, however, we all desire to know the facts. In this light, our police, military, & government knows more than ever because you wanted justice for terrible crimes. Who doesn’t? The most original quote of presumed Benjamin Franklin’s take is “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” I hope you are enjoying your Facebook, as technically you have given up much security for the use of the freedom of information, which even has an act that’s been quite popular lately.

In that expression we’ve all also embraced the amount of data that can gather insight into how you operate. This includes things that make you human, like habits & preferences, age & gender, location & education. You have willingly given your information that pushes our society to one of little privacy, but incredible insight. Your apathy though has driven the industries to examine the data to better sell to you, and simply make money. More than a few public services have been tried, including the famous Flu Twitter predictions to use this data for use or benefit to the actual participants of the system. These have been isolated, small experiments of small significance have led the way, with little or no media coverage. Let’s go over what we could be doing with a solid Government agency or even a public consortium for public benefit.

  1. Improving public systems use & implementation. Analytics allows us to see what’s most popular, most accessible, and what people use our site for, as well as who they are. Structuring sites of public services crafted to demographics for public use would help to reduce long term cost, just like in private sector advertising optimization.
  2. Identifying public safety concerns. Google Flu Trends missed the mark, but how people operate operate online is quite transparent. Things like addiction, crime, & even birth rates can and have been predicted with online data. Did I mention you can also trade stock based on Google Trends?
  3. Public interest polling. We all too often post the results of what people say about who or what they would choose. With online data we can see CONTEXT of those polls. Doritos didn’t hit the mark with a new product even though people said they liked it? Then can find out, it’s because hot sauce popularity doesn’t always translate to demand for spicy things. Or that politicians poll higher only in circumstances where they are included, which many times others’ have to investigate…online of all places. Context is king where content is key.
  4. Proactive betterment. With the right mix, you could create a prediction software much like the rumored one at Facebook. While this shows brands and more selling tactics, one sould be established as a pulse on the emotions & general state of your city. These sorts of programs could then feedback in their communities for positive reinforcement. You could also determine things like how much of a “bummer” it is to lose your college football game on a citywide level. The predictions grow in just the though of it.

What does this all mean or need? It means you either fess up to this mess & start being aware of what you click “I agree” to, or acknowledge we need a government driven data institution to study these things. Either way Lucy, “You got some ‘splainin to do.”

How To Use Online Data For Good

About The Author
- 2006 Graduate of Columbia University in the City of New York, with a Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.Sc.) in the field of Cognitive Psychology and Psycholinguistics. After realizing the implications of the “Big Data” age, he has focused on lifting the veil on SEO, digital advertising, & traditional media.