A recently published study by researchers at Cambridge University in the UK and Microsoft Research, used an automated analysis of 58,000 volunteers’ Facebook “likes” to make highly accurate predictions about a person’s private and very sensitive personal attributes.
There’s nothing wrong with putting it all out there on social media sites, but you can bet on the fact that an overwhelming majority of users are unaware of what data mining can reveal about them.
The researchers developed a model that could predict if a man was homosexual 88 percent of the time, and 75 percent of the time for women; ethnic origin (95 percent), gender (93 percent), religion (82 percent), political affiliation (85 percent), if they use addictive substances (75 percent), and relationship status (67 percent).
Abandoning social media isn’t the answer. These sites promote immeasurable societal benefits. The solution is to empower individuals with the right to control their own data. Not everyone cares if data brokers can figure out who they voted for, or if they smoke weed. Many probably don’t care if someone is making money aggregating and selling that data, but they have a right to know what is being done with their personal information and some measure of control over it.
We need a framework which establishes easily understood guidelines and rules for gathering, aggregating, disseminating, and especially for selling data.
See yesterday’s post for more about solutions to Big Data problems.
Dr. Alex Pentland of MIT says it best with the three basic tenets of his “new deal on data” :
you have the right to possess your data, to control how it is used, and to destroy or distribute it as you see fit.