Global 'census' to put face on big data

Global 'census' to put face on big data

A crowdsourcing project will attempt to shed light on how people create and interact with the information in the world around them.

The Human Face of Big Data (HFOBD) is a crowdsourcing project that will attempt to shed light on how people create and interact with the information in the world around them. From September 26 HFOBD is collecting data from the smartphones of participants in more than 20 countries (including New Zealand) to create a snapshot of how data is used in five categories; health, environment, crime, society, and business.

Over eight days participants will use apps to answer questions about their family, sleeping patterns, and sex lives. This will be coupled with data collected from the cellular and satellite information available on modern smart devices.

One October 3, the data collected will be released as visualisations by journalist and photographer Rick Smolan, who in the past has worked for Time and National Geographic magazines. A book will be also be published, in printed form and as a tablet app.

Despite the amount of personal data HFOBD could potentially collect, the website does not mention privacy policies regarding its use.

Clive Gold, CTO of marketing at EMC which is sponsoring the project, says he does not know the specifics of the upcoming privacy policy, but any data that could identify a participant will not be collected.

Gold says that after the project is completed the data will be made publicly available, and participants will not be marketed to.

“Our goal is to open up people’s eyes to the possibilities of big data,” says Gold.

“We want to take this data group and represent it in a visual and engaging way.”

HFOBD says the privacy policy and user agreements will be viewable once the apps are available for download on September 25. HFOBD says it will not comment on the privacy policy or user agreements until that time.

Vikram Kumar, CEO of InternetNZ, says companies that deal with a consumer's persona data should endeavour to be transparent with how it will be used, otherwise those companies are putting the consumer into a "terrible position".

"Privacy is a trade off between costs and benefits. People need to understand the cost of that, and it shouldn't be in 20 pages of conditions that they need to read through," says Kumar.

Kumar says educational and research institutes have strict ethical panels to maintain privacy standards, something which needs to be adopted by other organisations.

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