In light of recent revelations of wholesale spying on American citizens by the National Security Agency (NSA), significant media attention has focused not only on how much data is being collected and under what authority it was being collected in the first place, but on the potential uses of that crucial private information by the agents of the federal surveillance state.
In a timely book on the subject, author Eric Siegel reveals the power and peril of predictive analytics.
Siegel, a former Columbia University professor, describes in his book,em>Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die, how government, law enforcement, hospitals, and businesses use technology to track and predict the behavior of everyone, everywhere. Predictive analytics is the science that turns raw data into useful information.
With this technology, computers literally learn from data how to predict future behavior of individuals. In business, this ability to predict — which is based on the patterns distinguished within the data — helps businesses make informed decisions and identify risks and opportunities.
“Data embodies a priceless collection of experience from which to learn. Every medical procedure, credit application, Facebook post, movie recommendations, spammy e-mail, and purchase of any kind — each positive or negative outcome, each successful or failed event or transaction — is encoded as data and warehoused,” Siegel explained. “As data piles up, we have ourselves a genuine gold rush. But data isn’t the gold — data in its raw form is boring crud. The gold is what’s discovered therein. With the new knowledge gained, prediction is possible.”
No one values this data as much as the domestic surveillance apparatus. The federal government knows it can use this ability to aggregate data and plot patterns to identify and label individuals it considers potential threats to the homeland. This is precisely, the Obama administration claims, the purpose of the surveillance conducted on millions of innocent Americans by the NSA and others.
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