Is Data Mining Fools Gold?

Here’s a thought provoking article about the problems of large-scale data mining by
governments. It’s written by a person living in the UK.

“Data-mining is complicated, and the more data you are mining, the more
false positives your software will throw up. If you act upon a false
positive for a motoring offence, it’s an inconvenience for the motorist,
but for an alleged case of child abuse, it can rip the family apart and
ruin the child’s life.”

“Furthermore, gathering large amounts of data is inherently dangerous.
Whatever information governments find interesting will also draw the
attention of criminals. Databases can be hard to keep secure, and it’s
not necessarily hackers that we should be worried about, but
unauthorised access by employees of the agencies that use these
databases. Equally, the more data you have, the more difficult it is to
maintain accuracy. In 2000, an audit of the Police National Computer
found that 86% of records contained errors, 85% of those errors were
serious, and some were libellous.”

“Technology can be a very powerful tool, but what it can’t do is replace
real human beings or traditional investigative work. Designed badly or
used poorly, databases are the technological equivalent of fools gold.”