Data Ethics Regulation: Two key updates in 2018

This year, two important new regulations will be impacting research with human subjects: the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which kicks in May 2018, and the USA’s updated Common Rule, called the Final Rule, is in effect from Jan 2018. Both changes relate to protecting individuals’ private information and will affect researchers using behavioral data in terms of data collection, access, use, applications for ethics committee (IRB) approvals/exemptions, collaborations within the same country/region and beyond, and collaborations with industry. Both GDPR and the final rule try to modernize what today constitutes “private data” and data subjects’ rights and balance … Continue reading Data Ethics Regulation: Two key updates in 2018

Experimenting with quantified self: two months hooked up to a fitness band

It’s one thing to collect and analyze behavioral big data (BBD) and another to understand what it means to be the subject of that data. To really understand. Yes, we’re all aware that our social network accounts and IoT devices share our private information with large and small companies and other organizations. And although we complain about our privacy, we are forgiving about sharing it, most likely because we really appreciate the benefits. So, I decided to check out my data sharing in a way that I cannot ignore: I started wearing a fitness band. I bought one of the … Continue reading Experimenting with quantified self: two months hooked up to a fitness band

Google Scholar — you’re not alone; Microsoft Academic Search coming up in searches

In searching for a few colleagues’ webpages I noticed a new URL popping up in the search results. It either included the prefix academic.microsoft.com or the IP address 65.54.113.26. I got curious and checked it out to discover Microsoft Academic Search (Beta) — a neat presentation of the author’s research publications and collaborations. In addition to the usual list of publications, there are nice visualizations of publications and citations over time, a network chart of co-authors and citations, and even an Erdos Number graph. The genealogy graph claims that it is based on data mining so “might not be perfect”. All this is … Continue reading Google Scholar — you’re not alone; Microsoft Academic Search coming up in searches

Advancing science vs. compromising privacy

Data mining often brings up the association of malicious organizations that violate individuals’ privacy. Three days ago, this tension was brought up a notch (at least in my eyes): Netflix decided to cancel the second round of the famous Netflix Prize. The reason is apparent in the New York Times article “Netflix Cancels Contest After Concerns Are Raised About Privacy“. Researchers from the University of Texas have shown that the data disclosed by Netflix in the first contest could be used to identify users. One woman sued Netflix. The Federal Trade Commission got involved, and the rest is history. What’s … Continue reading Advancing science vs. compromising privacy

Mining voters

While the presidential candidates are still doing their dances, it’s interesting to see how they use datamining for improving their stance: The candidates apparently use companies that mine their voter databases in order to “micro-target” voters via ads and the like. See this blog posting on The New Republic— courtesy of former student Igor Nakshin. Note also the comment about the existence of various such companies that tailor to the different candidates. It would be interesting to test the impact of this “mining” on actual candidate voting and to compare the different tools. But how can this be done in … Continue reading Mining voters

Data mining = Evil?

Some get a chill when they hear “data mining” because they associate it with “big brother”. Well, here’s one more major incident that sheds darkness on smart algorithms: The Department of Homeland Security declared the end of a data mining program called ADVISE (Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement). Why? Because it turns out that they were testing it for two years on live data on real people “without meeting privacy requirements” (Yahoo! News: DHS ends criticized data-mining program). There is nothing wrong or evil about data mining. It’s like any other tool: you can use it or abuse … Continue reading Data mining = Evil?