Civil Liberties

Does Too Much Data=Bad Predictions?


There's no shortage of data available to police, meteorologists, and other soothsayers. But could there be a point where more data means worse predictions? Yes, sayeth camera skeptic and BoingBoing impresario Cory Doctorow:

Take London: cover every square inch of the city with CCTVs and you'll get so much information that you'll never make any sense of it. Scotland Yard says that CCTVs help solve fewer than 3% of all crimes, while a study in San Francisco found that at best, criminals simply move out of camera range, while at worst they assume no one is watching.

Similarly, if you take fingerprints from every person who applies for a visa – or worse still, from every person in Britain who has to carry one of the proposed new biometric cards – you will fill the databases with chaff that slows down searches, generates endless false matches, and threatens everyone in the database with the worst kind of identity theft.

Check out Doctorow's recommendations for political books for young adults. And check out his book, Little Brother.