Big Data and you

Phsyogs: The Novel Card Game.Unknown Artist, British 1940s (Metropolitan Museum)

Frank Pasquale at Concurring Opinions begins his recent post titled “Gamifying Control of the Scored Self” with this paragraph:

Social sorting is big business. Bosses and bankers crave “predictive analytics:” ways of deciding who will be the best worker, borrower, or customer. Our economy is less likely to reward someone who “builds a better mousetrap” than it is to fund a startup which will identify those most likely to buy a mousetrap. The critical resource here is data, the fossil fuel of the digital economy. Privacy advocates are digital environmentalists, worried that rapid exploitation of data either violates moral principles or sets in motion destructive processes we only vaguely understand now.

Companies want access to you and who you know so they can make marketable predictions about your behavior. Of course, they aren’t going to tell you how their process works, because that’s a “trade secret” and pretty much immune from public scrutiny.

When Big Data’s cheerleaders rhapsodize about understanding our social world better than ever, remember that they are often talking about enhanced methods of monitoring and manipulating those too politically weak to demand privacy (or recompense for its invasion).