Saturday 16 June 2012

'Big Data' disguises digital doubts

Buzzwords don't come any bigger than "Big Data," which promises to reveal the secrets hidden within big blocks of data held by companies, governments and musty old archives.
"The only problem is that a lot of the Big Data isn't really data," says anthropologist Robert Albro of American University in Washington D.C., who studies how culture affects public policy. "It's a mash-up of all kinds of numbers that started out as data, but they don't necessarily mean anything once they have been removed from where they started out." In the social sciences, he says, researchers have learned over the last century that half the battle in any study is carefully explaining your data's origins. "Once you leave that behind, there is a risk you'll be wrong, and a risk that the decisions you make based on being wrong will affect people in negative ways."

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