3 Terrible Big Data Ideas
Yesterday was, for some reason, a big day for terrible ideas in the big data space.
First, there’s this article (via Matt Stoller) which explains how Cable One is data mining their customers, and in particular are rating potential customers by their FICO scores. If you don’t have a high enough FICO score, they won’t bother selling you pay-TV.
No wait, that’s not completely fair. Here’s how they put it:
“We don’t turn people away,” Might said, but the cable company’s technicians aren’t going to “spend 15 minutes setting up an iPhone app” for a customer who has a low FICO score.
Second, the Chicago Police Department uses data mining techniques of social media to determine who is in gangs. Then they arrest scores of people on their lists, and finally they tout the accuracy of their list in part because of the percentage of people who were arrested who were also on their list. I’d like to see a slightly more scientific audit of this system. ProPublica?
Finally, and this is absolutely amazing, there’s a extremely terrible new start-up in town called Faception (h/t Ernie Davis). Describing itself as a “Facial Personality Profiling company”, Faception promises to “use science” to figure out who is a terrorist based on photographs. Or, as my friend Eugene Stern snarkily summarized, “personality is influenced by genes, facial features are influenced by genes, therefore facial features can be used to predict personality.”
Here’s a screenshot from their website, I promise I didn’t make this up:
Also, here’s a 2-minute advertisement from their founder:
I think my previous claim that Big Data is the New Phrenology was about a year too early.