ENTRIES TAGGED "transparency"

Thin walls and traffic cameras

We need checks and balances to ensure data-driven predictions don't become prejudices.

2008 06 11 - 3313b - Silver Spring - 16th St Circle Traffic Camera by thisisbossi, on FlickrA couple of years ago, I spoke with a European Union diplomat who shall remain nameless about the governing body’s attitude toward privacy.

“Do you know why the French hate traffic cameras?” he asked me. “It’s because it makes it hard for them to cheat on their spouses.”

He contended that while it was possible for a couple to overlook subtle signs of infidelity — a brush of lipstick on a collar, a stray hair, or the smell of a man’s cologne — the hard proof of a speeding ticket given on the way to an afternoon tryst couldn’t be ignored.

Humans live in these grey areas. A 65 mph speed limit is really a suggestion; it’s up to the officers to enforce that limit. That allows for context: a reckless teen might get pulled over for going 70, but a careful driver can go 75 without incident.

But a computer that’s programmed to issue tickets to speeders doesn’t have that ambiguity. And its accusations are hard to ignore because they’re factual, rooted in hard data and numbers.

Did big data kill privacy?

With the rise of a data-driven society, it’s tempting to pronounce privacy dead. Each time we connect to a new service or network, we’re agreeing to leave a digital breadcrumb trail behind us. And increasingly, not connecting makes us social pariahs, leaving others to wonder what we have to hide.

But maybe privacy is a fiction. For millennia — before the rise of city-states — we lived in villages. Gossip, hearsay, and whisperings heard through thin-walled huts were the norm.

Shared moral values and social pressure helped groups to compete better against other groups, helping to evolve the societies and religions that dominate the world today. Humans thrive in part because of our groupish nature — which is why moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt says we’re 90% chimp and 10% bee. We might have evolved as selfish individuals, but we conquered the Earth as selfish teams.

In other words, being private is relatively new, perhaps only transient, and gossip helped us get here. Read more…

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Open health data in practice: Increase your access to lab results

Voice your support for a proposed federal rule that expands patients' access to test results.

I’m convinced that there’s a wave of innovation coming in healthcare, driven by new kinds of data, new ways of extracting meaning from that data, and new business models that data can enable. That’s one of the reasons why we launched our StrataRx Conference, which focuses on the importance of data science to the future of health care.

Unfortunately, much of the data that will enable an entrepreneurial explosion is still locked up — in paper records, in proprietary data formats, and by well-intentioned but conflicting privacy regulations.

We’re making progress towards open data in healthcare, but there are still so many obstacles!  Ann Waldo recently introduced me to one of these.

A 2009 law modernized patient access rights by allowing individuals to get copies of their medical records in electronic format. Unfortunately, however, these patients’ access rights surprisingly do not include lab test results – one of the types of medical records that people are most likely to find urgent and useful. Due to the interaction of HIPAA (the Federal medical privacy law), CLIA (a Federal laboratory regulatory law), and state laws, patients can only get direct access to their their test results from labs in a handful of states.

A recent New York Times story highlighted just how much pain and suffering can be caused by this inability to get access to your own lab results.

In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services put forward a proposed Rule that would give patients the right to get their test results directly from laboratories. This Rule is still waiting to be finalized. In hopes of breaking the logjam, O’Reilly Media and a variety of other players have written a consensus letter that voices our whole-hearted support for that proposed Rule and encourages the Federal government to finalize it promptly.

We’d love to invite you to join us in signing this letter.

Patients’ rights should include direct access to their lab results, just like all their other medical records!

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Four short links: 16 October 2012

Four short links: 16 October 2012

News App, Data Wrangler, Responsive Previews, and Accountable Algorithms

  1. cir.ca — news app for iPhone, which lets you track updates and further news on a given story. (via Andy Baio)
  2. DataWrangler (Stanford) — an interactive tool for data cleaning and transformation. Spend less time formatting and more time analyzing your data. From the Stanford Visualization Group.
  3. Responsivator — see how websites look at different screen sizes.
  4. Accountable Algorithms (Ed Felten) — When we talk about making an algorithmic public process open, we mean two separate things. First, we want transparency: the public knows what the algorithm is. Second, we want the execution of the algorithm to be accountable: the public can check to make sure that the algorithm was executed correctly in a particular case. Transparency is addressed by traditional open government principles; but accountability is different.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 27 September 2012

Four short links: 27 September 2012

Don't Pay Developers, Teaching Programming, Second Android Screens, and Democracy

  1. Paying for Developers is a Bad Idea (Charlie Kindel) — The companies that make the most profit are those who build virtuous platform cycles. There are no proof points in history of virtuous platform cycles being created when the platform provider incents developers to target the platform by paying them. Paying developers to target your platform is a sign of desperation. Doing so means developers have no skin in the game. A platform where developers do not have skin in the game is artificially propped up and will not succeed in the long run. A thesis illustrated with his experience at Microsoft.
  2. Learnable Programming (Bret Victor) — deconstructs Khan Academy’s coding learning environment, and explains Victor’s take on learning to program. A good system is designed to encourage particular ways of thinking, with all features carefully and cohesively designed around that purpose. This essay will present many features! The trick is to see through them — to see the underlying design principles that they represent, and understand how these principles enable the programmer to think. (via Layton Duncan)
  3. Tablet as External Display for Android Smartphones — new app, in beta, letting you remote-control via a tablet. (via Tab Times)
  4. Clay Shirky: How The Internet Will (One Day) Transform Government (TED Talk) — There’s no democracy worth the name that doesn’t have a transparency move, but transparency is openness in only one direction, and being given a dashboard without a steering wheel has never been the core promise a democracy makes to its citizens.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 13 September 2012

Four short links: 13 September 2012

Programming Patterns, Limits of Observation, Surviving Transparency, 3D Printing Sounds

  1. Patterns for Research in Machine Learning — every single piece of advice should be tattooed under the eyelids of every beginning programmer, regardless of the field.
  2. Milton Friedman’s ThermostatEverybody knows that if you press down on the gas pedal the car goes faster, other things equal, right? And everybody knows that if a car is going uphill the car goes slower, other things equal, right? But suppose you were someone who didn’t know those two things. And you were a passenger in a car watching the driver trying to keep a constant speed on a hilly road. You would see the gas pedal going up and down. You would see the car going downhill and uphill. But if the driver were skilled, and the car powerful enough, you would see the speed stay constant. So, if you were simply looking at this particular “data generating process”, you could easily conclude: “Look! The position of the gas pedal has no effect on the speed!”; and “Look! Whether the car is going uphill or downhill has no effect on the speed!”; and “All you guys who think that gas pedals and hills affect speed are wrong!” (via Dr Data’s Blog)
  3. Transparency Doesn’t Kill Kittens (O’Reilly Radar) — Atul Gawande says, cystic fibrosis … had data for 40 years on the performance of the centers around the country that take care of kids with cystic fibrosis. They shared the data privately [...] They just told you where you stood relative to everybody else and they didn’t make that information public. About four or five years ago, they began making that information public. It’s now available on the Internet. You can see the rating of every center in the country for cystic fibrosis. Several of the centers had said, “We’re going to pull out because this isn’t fair.” Nobody ended up pulling out. They did not lose patients in hoards and go bankrupt unfairly. They were able to see from one another who was doing well and then go visit and learn from one and other.
  4. 3D Printing: The Coolest Way to Visualize Sound — just what it says. (via Infovore)
Comment: 1
Four short links: 17 August 2012

Four short links: 17 August 2012

Talking About Your Product, Moving On, Visible Turk, and Digital Nativity

  1. What Twitter’s API Anouncement Could Have Said (Anil Dash) — read this and learn. Anil shows how powerful it is to communicate from the perspective of the reader. People don’t care about your business model or platform changes except as it applies to them. Focus on what you’re doing for the user, because that’s why you make every change–right? Your average “we’ve changed things” message focuses on the platform not the user: “*we* changed things for *our* reasons” and the implicit message is because *we* have all the power”. Anil’s is “you just got this Christmas present, because we are always striving to make things better for you!”. If it’s deceitful bullshit smeared over an offensive money grab, the reader will smell it. But if you’re living life right, you’re telling the truth. And they can smell that, too.
  2. Goodbye, Everyblock — Adrian Holovaty is moving on and ready, once more, to make something awesome.
  3. Turkopticon — transparency about crappy microemployers for people who work on Mechanical Turk. (via Beta Knowledge)
  4. Digital Natives, 10 Years After (PDF) — we need to move away from this fetish of insisting in naming this generation the Digital/Net/Google Generation because those terms don’t describe them, and have the potential of keeping this group of students from realizing personal growth by assuming that they’ve already grown in areas that they so clearly have not.
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Four short links: 3 July 2012

Four short links: 3 July 2012

OpenROV Funded, Teen Surprises, Crowdsourced Net Transparency, and Like Humour

  1. OpenROV Funded in 1 Day (Kickstarter) — an open source robotic submarine designed to make underwater exploration possible for everyone. (via BoingBoing)
  2. McAfee Digital Divide Study (PDF) — lots of numbers showing parents are unaware of what their kids do. (via Julie Starr)
  3. Herdict — crowdsourced transparency to reveal who is censoring what online. (via Twitter)
  4. You Really Really Like Me (NY Times) — cute collection of visual riffs on “like” and “tweet this” iconography. I like my humour pixellated.
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Data journalism research at Columbia aims to close data science skills gap

Emily Bell is entrusted with teaching the data journalists of the next century at Columbia University.

In this interview, the director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University talks about the challenges and opportunities that face those who would practice data journalism in the 21st century. In particular, Emily Bell discusses the skills and mindset that are needed, including how a $2 million research grant will help support developing them.

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Four short links: 17 April 2012

Four short links: 17 April 2012

Animal Imagery, Infectious Ideas, Internet v Books, and Transparency Projects

  1. Penguins Counted From Space (Reuters) — I love the unintended flow-on effects of technological progress. Nobody funded satellites because they’d help us get an accurate picture of wildlife in the Antarctic, but yet here we are. The street finds a use …
  2. What Makes a Super-Spreader?A super-spreader is a person who transmits an infection to a significantly greater number of other people than the average infected person. The occurrence of a super spreader early in an outbreak can be the difference between a local outbreak that fizzles out and a regional epidemic. Cory, Waxy, Gruber, Ms BrainPickings Popova: I’m looking at you. (via BoingBoing)
  3. The Internet Did Not Kill Reading Books (The Atlantic) — reading probably hasn’t declined to the horrific levels of the 1950s.
  4. Data Transparency Hacks — projects that came from the WSJ Data Transparency Codeathon.
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Top Stories: October 31-November 4, 2011

Top Stories: October 31-November 4, 2011

An author turns to automation, a look at privacy in the age of big data, and a simple rule for data ethics.

This week on O'Reilly: Former author Robbie Allen explained his shift to software-generated writing, Terence Craig said transparency is the best way to handle digital privacy, and we learned how a simple question can keep data companies honest.

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