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CIO Upfront: Big data, dumb data: When AI and reality collide

CIO Upfront: Big data, dumb data: When AI and reality collide

IT lawyer Jennie Vickers writes about the scourge of the day - the indiscriminate use of data.

Lawyers in NZ now need to do a certain number of hours of continuing professional development (CPD).

Not a problem for me because I have never stopped learning and studying. I now have a degree in law from the UK, a postgrad Diploma in business administration and a Masters of Management. I am qualified to practise law in New Zealand, Australia, England and Wales

The reason I repeat this info from LinkedIn is not about showing off but to share data that is part of the data set about me, already held in the University of Auckland’s database.

Earlier this year I decided that for my continuing professional development, I would do a few papers at the Law School along with the undergraduate students.

The first one was Law and Information Technology and the second paper was on Aviation Law. I was unable to sit the Aviation Law exam because I was working in the Cook Islands (honestly!) but frankly it did not matter. I did the hours and got what I set out to achieve.

Two weeks ago, a database, in cahoots with an email system, sent me an email with this cryptic message: Your current status is: AT ACADEMIC RISK.

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This database was clearly incapable of realising that I was not in any way at academic risk and was therefore not the right recipient for this email. It could tell that I did not sit my Aviation Law exam and therefore got no academic points, but ignored the fact that I did not need any.

This email did not upset me, it entertained me, and was the first funny thing I read that morning.

It did however remind me, mindful of the presentation at a recent Auckland conference by Edward Roske of interRel Consulting, that before organisations can take advantage of Big Data, they first need to understand the questions which can already be answered from their existing data and databases.

I have stopped giving to any charity that, having got my information in their database, bombards me with requests for more money with pleas that sound like I have never given before.

This is not meant to be a beat up of the university but it does provide a nice topical example of the scourge of our day, i.e. the indiscriminate use of data, that is more likely to irritate than inspire to action.

There are many more examples, which are daily the subject of irritated chat on bulletin boards.

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For example, I have stopped giving to any charity that, having got my information in their database, bombards me with requests for more money with pleas that sound like I have never given before. I am driven crazy by emails from companies that I am a long time customer of, enticing me with offers not open to existing customers.

We only have to look at Google's advertising success which is based around targeted advertising to see that if data is used well and intelligently you can show people information about things they might actually be interested in.

I am going to re-take Aviation Law next term or I just might have that old database in tears at my continuing failures and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

Jennie Vickers (jennie@zeopard.com) is principal of Zeopard Law.

Send comments and contributions to CIO Upfront to divina_paredes@idg.co.nz

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

Follow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nz

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