TagData mining

Change.org Isn’t a Non-Profit, and It’s Selling Your E-Mail Address to Fundraisers

My latest for Wired:

What many people fail to realize is that Change.org isn’t a non-profit organization. Though anyone can set up a petition for free, the company makes an awful lot of money from all the data it collects about its online petitions and the people who sign them. It’s not just a path to The People. It’s a Google-like Big Data play.

In amassing data from its 45 million users and the 660,000 petitions they’ve created and signed, the company has unprecedented insight into the habits of online activists. If you sign one animal rights petition, the company says, you’re 2.29 times more likely to sign a criminal justice petition. And if you sign a criminal justice petition, you’re 6.3 times more likely to sign an economic justice petition. And 4.4 times more likely to sign an immigrant rights petition. And four times more likely to sign an education petition. And so on.

Change.org uses this data to serve you petitions you’re more likely to be interested in. And, in many cases, it also uses the stuff as a way of pairing you with paying sponsors you’re more likely to give money to.

It’s an intriguing business, and as it turns out, a rather lucrative one. But for some, it also toes an ethical line. “We’ve sort of created an email industrial complex where we’ll do anything to get people’s email address,” says Clay Johnson, a Presidential Innovation Fellow who, in 2004, co-founded Blue State Digital, a for-profit consulting company that helped develop the Obama campaign’s finely targeted fundraising system.

Full Story: Wired Enterprise: Meet Change.org, the Google of Modern Politics

Good News for Data Geeks, Bad News for Everyone Else

not hiring

I have a new piece on the dismal impact of information technology on the workforce at ReadWriteWeb:

Last week we told you that enterprises are investing more into business intelligence and analytics initiatives. This week there’s more good news for professionals in this area: according to KDNuggets, salaries are rising for analytics and data mining professionals.

Based on a poll with approximately 250 respondents, KDNuggets found that salaries are up from its 2010 poll in North America, Western Europe, Asia and Latin America. (There is no mention of Eastern Europe, Africa or Antarctica.)

It’s a good time to be a geek, particularly one with a background in statistics, analytics and data mining. But a bad time to be almost any other type of worker.

For example, The New York Times reported on software that can process legal documents at a fraction of the cost of hiring lawyers and paralegals:

“Some programs go beyond just finding documents with relevant terms at computer speeds. They can extract relevant concepts — like documents relevant to social protest in the Middle East — even in the absence of specific terms, and deduce patterns of behavior that would have eluded lawyers examining millions of documents.”

That’s good news for the people who develop that software. But for people in the legal profession? Not so much.

ReadWriteWeb: Good News for Data Geeks, Bad News for Everyone Else

Supplemental reading:

Paul Krugman: Degrees and Dollars

Paul Krugman: Autor! Autor!

Krugman, again, on the same issue back in 1996

And, less dreary but probably less realistic:

Jobs 2.0: Data-centric Jobs for Generation Y

Photo by Daniel Lobo

Data mining for terrorists

Applied Systems Intelligence is working on a software package that for “sifting through and analysing existing databases of information, both public and private, and spotting suspicious patterns of activity.” “For example, the system might send an alert if someone tried to buy materials that could be used in bomb making, and booked a large truck and a hotel room near a government office.” Link.

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