Big Data, Bad Data

There has been considerable attention lately to how much data is collected about people. Marketers have been very busy. The NSA and other intelligence agencies have been very busy.

But no matter how much data one collects, it is always incomplete. Thinking that one has it all can lead to mistakes. by Robert X. Cringely has a very interesting section entitled “Predictive search, unforeseen consequences” which starts:

Still, all of that pales to what happened yesterday — or at least, what we thought happened yesterday. Freelance journalist Michele Catalano published a piece in Medium about a visit her husband received from members of a joint terrorism task force at their home on Wednesday. Six plainclothes officers with badges and guns pulled up in black SUVs at their home in East Meadow, N.Y., and proceeded to search their house and ask detailed questions about their Google habits.

Michele Catalano wrote in, “I had researched pressure cookers. My husband was looking for a backpack.” The Suffolk Police Department was concerned about pressure cooker bombs.

I wonder how many people have looked up pressure cooker bombs as a result of this story. I myself had a look.

If you are innocent, what have you got to hide? Maybe, peace of mind.