Monday, September 29, 2014

Is ‘Big Data’ Actually Reinforcing Social Inequalities?

Sometimes it feels like we live in an era when information is finally becoming “free”—unlimited media access, the “quantified self” of twenty-four-hour wellness tracking, endless dating possibilities. But there’s nothing inherently progressive about Big Data, and all that data collection can actually bolster inequality and undermine personal privacy. A new report reveals that when Big Data creeps into our work and financial lives, civil rights may get severely squeezed.

The report, “Civil Rights, Big Data, and Our Algorithmic Future” by the think tank Robinson + Yu, confronts the challenges of an information landscape where knowledge can be oppressively overwhelming. While it’s true that Big Data—the amassing of huge amounts of statistical information on social and economic trends and human behavior—can be empowering for some, it’s often wielded as a tool of control.

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