ENTRIES TAGGED "data mining"

Protecting US reporters’ records, data mining tools, and congressional acronym abuse

Notes and links from the data journalism beat

It seems that new data journalism tools are being released every day. The latest data journalism tools include: CivOmega, a modular prototype for government data that allows developers to plug in their own APIs and Fact Tank, a new data journalism platform from the Pew Research Center. Also, for journalists in the US concerned about protecting their own personal data, government investigators now face more hurdles when seeking a reporter’s records. And for a little data journalism levity, check out the latest project from Noah Veltman, a data journalism fellow at the BBC. Veltman used the GovTrack Bulk data API, SQL and Python to conduct a self-described “overly in-depth analysis” of Congressional Acronym Abuse from 1973 to the present.

Your links for the week:

  • The alpha of CivOmega: A hack-day tool to parse civic data and tell you more about Beyoncé’s travels (Neiman Lab)
    The idea of “a Siri or Wolfram Alpha for government data” — something that can connect natural language queries with multfaceted datasets — had been kicking around in the mind of MIT Media Lab and Knight-Mozilla veteran Dan Schultz ever since a Knight Foundation-sponsored election-year brainstorming session in 2011.
  • Introducing Fact Tank: An Interview with Pew Research Center President Alan Murray (Data Driven Journalism)
    Obviously, we collect vast amounts of data, about demographics, about a variety of issues – we are basically a data shop. In the past, most of the dissemination of our data has been done through existing media. But we also felt it was important for us to get our own data relating to news events out to the public more quickly and more directly. Additionally, we also felt it was important for us to play a role in aggregating data sets which we can then present ourselves.”
  • Read more…

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Strata Week: Why we should care about what the NSA may or may not be doing

Response to NSA data mining and the troubling lack of technical details, Facebook's Open Compute data center, and local police are growing their own DNA databases.

It’s a question of power, not privacy — and what is the NSA really doing?

PEW graph

Pew Research Center national survey

In the wake of the leaked NSA data-collection programs, the Pew Research Center conducted a national survey to measure American’s response. The survey found that 56% of respondents think NSA’s telephone record tracking program is an acceptable method to investigate terrorism, and 62% said the government’s investigations into possible terrorist threats are more important than personal privacy.

Rebecca J. Rosen at The Atlantic took a look at legal scholar Daniel J. Solove’s argument that we should care about the government’s collection of our data, but not for the reasons one might think — the collection itself, he argues, isn’t as troubling as the fact that they’re holding the data in perpetuity and that we don’t have access to it. Rosen quotes Solove:

“The NSA program involves a massive database of information that individuals cannot access. … This kind of information processing, which forbids people’s knowledge or involvement, resembles in some ways a kind of due process problem. It is a structural problem involving the way people are treated by government institutions. Moreover, it creates a power imbalance between individuals and the government. … This issue is not about whether the information gathered is something people want to hide, but rather about the power and the structure of government.”

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The 0th Law of Data Mining

Preview of The Laws of Data Mining Session at Strata Santa Clara 2013

Many years ago I was taught about the three laws of thermodynamics. When that didn’t stick, I was taught a quick way to remember originally identified by C.P. Snow:

  • 1st Law: you can’t win
  • 2nd Law: you can’t draw
  • 3rd Law: you can’t get out of the game

These laws (well the real ones) were firmly established by the mid 19th century. Yet, it wasn’t until the 1930s that the value of the 0th law was identified.

At Strata I’m going to be talking about the 9 Laws of Data Mining – a set of principles identified by Tom Khabaza and very closely related to the CRISP-DM data mining methodology.

They may possibly, just possibly, not be as important as the laws of thermodynamics, but at Strata they will be supported by an equally important 0th Law.

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Strata Week: Political data mining “bait-and-switch”

Inaugural 2013 app has plans for your data, the "unprecedented" security issues of the Internet of Things, and optical switches speed up data centers.

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

Inaugural 2013 app takes as much as it gives

Inaugural2013appThe Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) launched the first official inaugural smartphone app, Inaugural 2013 (for iOS and for Android), Monday. Daniel Strauss reports in a post at The Hill that inauguration attendees can use the app to locate and RSVP to events, watch events via livestream, and navigate the event with an interactive map.

What isn’t front and center in the pomp and circumstance of the shiny new app are the terms of service and the privacy statement. Steve Friess at Politico points out that in the fine print, users are giving the PIC permission to share their data — phone numbers, email, home addresses, and GPS location data, for instance — “with candidates, organizations, groups or causes that [the PIC] believe have similar political viewpoints, principles or objectives.”

Gregory Ferenstein reports at TechCrunch that “privacy advocates find it troubling that the fine-print on the PIC’s website says it can use activity data ‘without limitation in advertising, fundraising and other communications in support of PIC and the principles of the Democratic party, without any right of compensation or attribution.’”

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Strata Week: Big data’s big future

Big data in 2013, and beyond; the Sunlight Foundation's new data mining app; and the growth of our planet's central nervous system.

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

Big data will continue to be a big deal

“Big data” became something of a buzz phrase in 2012, with its role in the US Presidential election, and businesses large and small starting to realize the benefits and challenges of mountains upon zettabytes of data — so much so that NPR’s linguist contributor Geoff Nunberg thinks it should have been the phrase of the year.

Nunberg says that though “it didn’t get the wide public exposure given to items like ‘frankenstorm,’ ‘fiscal cliff‘ and YOLO,” and might not have been “as familiar to many people as ‘Etch A Sketch’ and ’47 percent’” were during the election, big data has become a phenomenon affecting our lives: “It’s responsible for a lot of our anxieties about intrusions on our privacy, whether from the government’s anti-terrorist data sweeps or the ads that track us as we wander around the Web.” He also notes that big data has transformed statistics into “a sexy major” and predicts the term will long outlast “Gangnam Style.” (You can read Nunberg’s full case for big data at NPR.)

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Four short links: 5 December 2012

Four short links: 5 December 2012

Poetry for Professionals, HTTPS Setup, Geodata Mining, and 3D Popup Print Shops

  1. The Benefits of Poetry for Professionals (HBR) — Harman Industries founder Sidney Harman once told The New York Times, “I used to tell my senior staff to get me poets as managers. Poets are our original systems thinkers. They look at our most complex environments and they reduce the complexity to something they begin to understand.”
  2. First Few Milliseconds of an HTTPS Connection — far more than you ever wanted to know about how HTTPS connections are initiated.
  3. Google Earth EngineDevelop, access and run algorithms on the full Earth Engine data archive, all using Google’s parallel processing platform. (via Nelson Minar)
  4. 3D Printing Popup Store Opens in NYC (Makezine Blog) — MAKE has partnered with 3DEA, a pop up 3D printing emporium in New York City’s fashion district. The store will sell printers and 3D printed objects as well as offer a lineup of classes, workshops, and presentations from the likes of jewelry maker Kevin Wei, 3D printing artist Josh Harker, and Shapeways’ Duann Scott. This. is. awesome!
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Strata Week: Big data’s daily influence

Big data's broad effect on our world, myriad uses for traffic data, and Obama's big data practice vs. policy.

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

How big data is transforming just about everything

Professor John Naughton took a look this week at how big data is transforming various industries that affect our daily lives.

He highlights finance, of course, which he says has been “pathologically mathematised;” marketing, for which there is more data about human behavior than we’ve ever had; and the very broad category of science. Naughton notes that researchers used to conjure up theories and look to data to support or refute; now, researchers turn to data to find patterns and connections that might inspire new theories. Naughton also looks at medicine, which is just on the brink of delving into the big data realm. He writes:

“Last week’s news about how Cambridge researchers stopped an MRSA outbreak affecting 12 babies in the Rosie Hospital by rapidly sequencing the genome of the bacteria illustrates how medicine has become a data-intensive field. Even a few years ago, the resources required to achieve this would have involved a roomful of computers and upwards of a week.”

Naughton addresses the use of big data in sports as well, speculating that baseball has been the sport most transformed by data. He’ll likely find agreement there. Barry Eggers goes into depth on the dramatic effect big data is having on baseball over at TechCrunch. He notes that simple data analysis of statistics, which baseball has embraced since its beginnings, has evolved into gathering mountains of unstructured data and employing Hadoop to gain new and better insights from data that isn’t part of the structured game information. Eggers writes:

“By having his data scientist run a Hadoop job before every game, [San Francisco Giants manager] Bruce Bochy can not only make an informed decision about where to locate a 3-1 Matt Cain pitch to Prince Fielder, but he can also predict how and where the ball might be hit, how much ground his infielders and outfielders can cover on such a hit, and thus determine where to shift his defense. Taken one step further, it’s not hard to imagine a day where managers like Bochy have their locker room data scientist run real-time, in-game analytics using technologies like Cassandra, Hbase, Drill, and Impala.”

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Strata Week: Data mining for votes

Candidates are data mining behind the scenes, data mining gets a PR campaign, Google faces privacy policy issues, and Hadoop and BI.

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

Presidential candidates are mining your data

Data is playing an unprecedented role in the US presidential election this year. The two presidential campaigns have access to personal voter data “at a scale never before imagined,” reports Charles Duhigg at the New York Times. The candidate camps are using personal data in polling calls, accessing such details as “whether voters may have visited pornography Web sites, have homes in foreclosure, are more prone to drink Michelob Ultra than Corona or have gay friends or enjoy expensive vacations,” Duhigg writes. He reports that both campaigns emphasized they were committed to protecting voter privacy, but notes:

“Officials for both campaigns acknowledge that many of their consultants and vendors draw data from an array of sources — including some the campaigns themselves have not fully scrutinized.”

A Romney campaign official told Duhigg: “You don’t want your analytical efforts to be obvious because voters get creeped out. A lot of what we’re doing is behind the scenes.”

The “behind the scenes” may be enough in itself to creep people out. These sorts of situations are starting to tarnish the image of the consumer data-mining industry, and a Manhattan trade group, the Direct Marketing Association, is launching a public relations campaign — the “Data-Driven Marketing Institute” — to smooth things over before government regulators get involved. Natasha Singer reports at the New York Times:

“According to a statement, the trade group intends to promote such targeted marketing to lawmakers and the public ‘with the goal of preventing needless regulation or enforcement that could severely hamper consumer marketing and stifle innovation’ as well as ‘tamping down unfavorable media attention.’ As part of the campaign, the group plans to finance academic research into the industry’s economic impact, said Linda A. Woolley, the acting chief executive of the Direct Marketing Association.”

One of the biggest issues, Singer notes, is that people want control over their data. Chuck Teller, founder of Catalog Choice, told Singer that in a recent survey conducted by his company, 67% of people responded that they wanted to see the data collected about them by data brokers and 78% said they wanted the ability to opt out of the sale and distribution of that data.

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Four short links: 4 October 2012

Four short links: 4 October 2012

Vannevar Bush, Topic Transparency, Ancient Maps, and Concussion Sensors

  1. As We May Think (Vannevar Bush) — incredibly prescient piece he wrote for The Atlantic in 1945.
  2. Transparency and Topic Models (YouTube) — a talk from DataGotham 2012, by Hanna Wallach. She uses latent Dirichlet allocation topic models to mine text data in declassified documents where the metadata are useless. She’s working on predicting classification durations (AWESOME!). (via Matt Biddulph)
  3. Slippy Map of the Ancient World — this. is. so. cool!
  4. Technology in the NFLX2IMPACT’s Concussion Management System (CMS) is a great example of this trend. CMS, when combined with a digital mouth guard, also made by X2, enables coaches to see head impact data in real-time and asses concussions through monitoring the accelerometers in a players mouth guard. That data helps teams to decide whether to keep a player on the field or take them off for their own safety. Insert referee joke here.
Comments: 2
Four short links: 30 August 2012

Four short links: 30 August 2012

Decoding ToS, Impact Factors are Nonsense, Crappy Open Source Code, and Data Mining History

  1. TOS;DR — terms of service rendered comprehensible. “Make the hard stuff easy” is a great template for good ideas, and this just nails it.
  2. Sick of Impact Factorstypically only 15% of the papers in a journal account for half the total citations. Therefore only this minority of the articles has more than the average number of citations denoted by the journal impact factor. Take a moment to think about what that means: the vast majority of the journal’s papers — fully 85% — have fewer citations than the average. The impact factor is a statistically indefensible indicator of journal performance; it flatters to deceive, distributing credit that has been earned by only a small fraction of its published papers. (via Sci Blogs)
  3. A Generation Lost in the Bazaar (ACM) — Today’s Unix/Posix-like operating systems, even including IBM’s z/OS mainframe version, as seen with 1980 eyes are identical; yet the 31,085 lines of configure for libtool still check if and exist, even though the Unixen, which lacked them, had neither sufficient memory to execute libtool nor disks big enough for its 16-MB source code. [...] That is the sorry reality of the bazaar Raymond praised in his book: a pile of old festering hacks, endlessly copied and pasted by a clueless generation of IT “professionals” who wouldn’t recognize sound IT architecture if you hit them over the head with it. It is hard to believe today, but under this embarrassing mess lies the ruins of the beautiful cathedral of Unix, deservedly famous for its simplicity of design, its economy of features, and its elegance of execution. (Sic transit gloria mundi, etc.)
  4. History as Science (Nature) — Turchin and his allies contend that the time is ripe to revisit general laws, thanks to tools such as nonlinear mathematics, simulations that can model the interactions of thousands or millions of individuals at once, and informatics technologies for gathering and analysing huge databases of historical information.
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