Big Data Could Create an Era of Big Discrimination

Personal data harvested by marketers is growing so vast and far reaching that it is threatening to unleash a new wave of digital discrimination, one that ordinary people won’t even be able to see happening, Microsoft principal researcher Kate Crawford is warning.
Combining the troves of information collected by retailers, mobile carriers, Internet companies and others into massive databases creates so-called big data sets. Computers then troll the data looking for patterns that can be used to make predictions about consumer habits.
“Some people think that big data is really quite fantastic because you’re working at a mass level and therefore you can’t actually conduct group-based discrimination,” Crawford said, speaking at the EmTech conference at MIT this week. “It’s actually quite the opposite. Big data is not color blind, it’s not gender blind and, in fact, marketers are using big data to have ever-more precise categories about you.”

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