“Big data,” as we now refer to enormous collections of facts, figures and unstructured information like metadata and tweets, has helped us better understand crime rates and predict outbreaks of communicable diseases, and it radically improves our online shopping experiences. But imagine the potential benefits when such data science innovations are applied to the world of human rights. Rather than a digital hazard, computer technology that can handle big data can draw from information about human sentiments and actions to predict potential atrocities, reveal patterns of destructive human activities such as trafficking and help weigh prescriptive policies.
Recently, Amnesty International USA participated in a New York City event called a “DataDive,” where volunteer data scientists got together to apply their knowledge and skills to human rights data. Experts from industry and academia with a broad range of skills learned in for-profit environments came together under the auspices of the not-for-profit DataKind, which periodically hosts such events.