quarta-feira, 14 de março de 2007

Big Brother just wants to help

WHEN you order books from an online bookstore or buy groceries from a supermarket's website, the personalised book suggestions that pop up, and the reminder that you normally buy milk, are generated by data-mining software that analyses buying habits. The use of such technology by retailers is commonplace. But now governments are adopting it too, in fields from education to tax collection, in order to plan, implement and assess new policies. “Not only do firms like Tesco have good operational systems that control their costs, but they understand their customers and can offer particular product mixes which are attractive to certain groups,” says Peter Dorrington of SAS, one of the biggest providers of data-mining and analysis software. Why, he asks, shouldn't governments do the same?


Dr Paul Henman from the University of Queensland, who has written extensively on the subject, raises a rather more philosophical objection to government data-mining: that the technology starts to transform the nature of government itself, so that the population is seen as a collection of sub-populations with different risk profiles—based on factors such as education, health, ethnic origin, gender and so on—rather than a single social body. He worries that this undermines social cohesion. “A key principle in liberal democracies is that we are all peers and equal before the law,” he says. But for proponents of the technology, such segmentation is the whole point: policies, like supermarket special offers, are often aimed at groups—and the more accurately they can be targeted, the better.
Data-mining - se as empresas o fazem porque não o Estado? Um artigo da Economist para ler com alguma abertura de espírito.

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