Posted by: zyxo | June 17, 2011

Datamining and privacy: don’t shoot the pianist


The internet is full of reactions, opinions about data mining and the corresponding privacy issues. Even insults like the example below towards data miners or top executives of data mining enterprizes are no exception.

But is data mining always so bad?
Domains like medical applications where data mining could save your life fall without any doubt on the good side of the picture.

But even marketing can be a justified reason to use data mining results:

  • some customers explicitely want to stay informed about new products or services that are within their region of interest
  • in a lot of cases data mining is used to do less mailing instead of more: do not contact people who are not going to buy anyway.
  • some product/service offers can be so rightly targeted that the targeted people think: “Wow, right! why didn’t I think of that myself ?”  Because of data mining in that case we actually provide them with a free service, more or less reminding them not to forget the things they actually need.  Of course this is the ideal situation.
Unfortunately there are all those less ethical initiatives out there, but that has nothing to do with data mining as such.  Has a rifle ever been condemned for killing someone?  No!  Its the shooter, the one who uses the rifle who is the criminal.  The same goes for data mining.  We, data miners are only the pianists.  We play music.  The ones that record our music and broadcast it much to loud are the ones to be blamed.


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