TechCrunch reported last week on a startup named Breezometer that is compiling air pollution data to give people a sense of what the air quality is like in their neighborhood. It takes freely available pollution data gathered by government agencies and aggregates it with location information and displays it in an app. As someone with occasionally troubled lungs, I love this idea.
At Re/Code last week, the co-chairs of the Future of Privacy Forum cited examples of how government agencies were using big data “in the fight against discrimination and hate” by looking at everything from housing, minority health care, school suspensions, and police behavior
On an equally serious note, Daniel Heimpel, publisher of The Chronicle Of Social Change, wrote recently on the topic of preventive analytics and child protection. In a detailed and insightful article, he talked about a new paradigm emerging “where big data can be crunched in a way that helps determine which children are at greater risk of being abused,” based on family history, education, economic level, and other factors. As one source noted, “[T]his information can be used for a range of activities – as a ‘check’ for clinical decision-making, to assign more experienced workers to more serious cases, to prioritize families for limited services slots, or to take some other action.”
I’m less happy to report that, on the other side of the spectrum, some people are using big data to engender feelings ranging from bother to bitterness.