There is No Cow Level…

data mining good for development

by on Nov.16, 2009, under ICM 501a Assignments

After reading the articles and watching what I could of the video (it was broken I had to go through youtube) I have developed mixed feelings on what is known as data mining.  I am and always have been a strong believer in moving forward technologically and intellectually especially when it comes to anything digital.  When I first heard that Google was going to read my emails and put up ads based on what I type I was pretty pissed.  It was not long before I was actually seeing the ads cater to my ever email.  If I wrote an email about video games or FTP I would get ads talking about purchasing FTP servers at great prices!!!  I then realized this is a small price to pay to enjoy what millions of people call the best email service in the world.  I love Gmail and always will, am I afraid that they will use my data to destroy my personal image?  No, absolutely not, but I do expect them to tell me when they will be reading personal data such as emails or IMs and things of those types.  So far they have and I am still happy.  There is the other end to this argument though.  What about when that personal data falls into the wrong hands?

In the clip of the video I watched and based on Professor Halavais article it is pretty obvious that when sensitive information falls into the hands of someone who either you don’t want seeing it or someone who has no right to see it, bad things can happen.  For instance when applying for a job these days, you would be stupid to not expect a potential employer to Google you or Facebook your profile to see what type of person you are.  That is for the most part a non-issue for me, I keep the drunk pictures private and un-tag inappropriate ones and even further I keep all my profile pictures for the most part judgment free as far as my character goes.  The issue with this is that once the picture was tagged it could be saved and shared throughout the internet.  I am no one famous and I do not consider myself popular by any means, but thinking that an employer could simply stumble upon a picture of me that I untagged and deleted and choose not to hire me based on it is a scary fact.  According to Mayclim (2005), “A survey of executive recruiters found that more than three quarters used search engines when screening applicants, and more than a third had eliminated a candidate from consideration based on information they found as part of that search”. 

Another major issue is whether or not search engine companies such as AOL, Google, and Yahoo should be allowed to publish anonymous search records so that trends and valuable data can be mined from them.  A lot of people are adamantly against this, I for one am absolutely not.  If the data is kept anonymous and by that I mean there is absolutely no way to trace it back to a user then there is no foreseeable privacy issue.  The only outcome that could come from it at that point is progress and innovation both of which are important.  What does need to happen is that the search engine information needs to be kept under lock and key.  It cannot under any circumstances fall into the hands of people who could use it for wrong.

Overall, I do not believe that data mining is bad at all, it is incredibly powerful and valuable to users, companies, and the government.  Utilizing this data in the correct manner can only spell progress and innovation.  However there needs to be certain guidelines followed when collecting the data.  First and foremost, the user must be notifies, even if that means they must read the privacy policy.  I am not expecting to be told with flashing lights and bold words basically because I know they are collecting already.  Finally security is a must have, people who are not allowed access to this data should be able to even get a glimpse at it.  The data must also stay 1000% anonymous, no chance of tracing it back to anyone.  Maybe this is not possible at this point, but if loopholes now lead to an impeccable system later, then by all means count me in.

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