Data Mining and Privacy-an ethical look Essay

3253 Words 14 Pages
Data Mining and Privacy-an ethical look

I. Introduction

In 2001, the MIT Technology Review listed data mining as one of the top 10 technologies that will change the world.[i] So, what is data mining? For many people, the simple answer is that data mining is the collecting of people’s information when logged onto the Internet. But Webopedia emphasizes that data mining is not the collection of data itself, but the statistical interpretation of it – allowing people to obtain new information or find hidden patterns within that collected data.[ii] It is the combination of these, collection and analysis, which are cause for concern. People want to know: What information is being collected about me? Who has access to that
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But these people didn’t fit into any of MSNBC’s existing user categories. By discovering that these people enjoyed tabloid-style news, the website was able to encourage use of their website by including at least one really juicy story on their homepage each day.[i]

Amazon.com has something they call “Purchase Circles” where, based on data mining they have done on their customers, you can see what the most popular purchases are for employees of certain companies, people in particular zip codes, and students of individual schools. They do allow you to opt-out of the data collection, but only after the initial uproar over the information collected – and it is not easy to figure out how.[iii]

Computer scientist Jon Kleinberg used data mining to determine what new words are entering our language. He has analyzed every State of the Union address to see how phrases come in and out of popularity. Current web logs are examined to find current ‘hot’ words that can be used in targeted advertising.[iv]

B.In Britain

The Leeds Building Society uses data mining on their 500,000 mortgage holders to determine which ones are most likely to go into arrears. They looked at all the information held on accounts that went into arrears in the past to form ‘high risk’ account profiles that can be applied to current and future accounts. They had some surprising
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