17.03.2018 || Research and Source Evaluation 2

This is my evaluation for some of the sources i have investigated so far.I have weighed up the relevance and reliability of each source, as well as how I will use the information within my own project to address my hypothesis.

Considering the ethics of big data research: A case of Twitter and ISIS/ISIL

Date Accessed: 15/03

This was a piece of writing about the ethics of big data research methodologies, and discussed the legal standing of collecting online data, with it being a relatively new way of generating insights. In this particular piece of research, data was collected by a group of Twitter users to identify people who are at risk of being radicalised. It was an interesting read, as it brought to light the trade-off between privacy and putting the user first and doing what is ‘socially right’. Today, big data is increasingly used for law and security purposes. The article raised some valid and thought-provoking questions about who should have access to data, and which contexts is data mining okay without ‘consent’.

Putting this in context of my project, I think that harnessing data available in the public domain (i.e. through social media) to identify those susceptible to radicalisation can protect the wider population and prevent specific individuals from isolating themselves and getting involved in illegal activity. It is apparent from this example that analytics can be a hugely powerful tool that if used correctly, can uncover patterns early on that can protect society from huge losses in the long-term. Despite the concerns over ‘privacy’ I think it’s critically important that we use this data, as it is best for the social good.


Big Data for Social Innovation, https://ssir.org/articles/entry/big_data_for_social_innovation,  Date Accessed: 15/03/18

So far, I have read many pieces of writing that talk about the problems with big data. This particular article brought to light the masses of potential it has and how it is already being used to overcome social problems. The writer of this article discusses how big data has been used with much success across a number of industries to increase profits etc. So why not to fight social problems? There are currently ongoing projects that  There are problems with privacy that would need to be overcome, and some issues (eg. trafficking) that have an illegal aspect to them make data very difficult to track.

This article has definitely made me think about whether there may be potential to use big data sets to actively fight poverty. I am interested in researching more into how this is done, if at all as I would like to discuss this in my project. I also hope to address the question of privacy and potential drawbacks this raises if data is shared in the public domain – as well as the benefits of making the data sets publicly available.


UN Global Pulse (May 2012) Big Data for Development: Challenges and Opportunities. https://www.unglobalpulse.org/projects/BigDataforDevelopment

 Date Accessed: 17/03/18

This was a report written by Global Pulse, an initiative by the United Nations to harness data analytics for global development. All of the content in this paper was cited, with references clearly laid out so I could verify certain statistics. Along with the clear references, Global Pulse is a UN initiative, so I can confirm that this is a reliable source.

This report discussed how big data can be used for development, along with the challenges it poses. It went into particular detail about the use of real-time data analytics and how, if harnessed correctly, they can serve as incredibly effective proxies for policy implementation and monitoring, and provide a useful snapshot into the population’s well-being. The report describes the changes in data signals generated as being like ‘digital smoke signals’ as they can show changes in how individuals (and even communities) use services, and this can be used to infer well-being.

This source reinforced what I read in ‘Big Data About Social Innovation’, suggesting that big data can be used to combat social problems, and how real-time analytics can be used as ‘Early-warning Systems’ in a way that is a lot less time-consuming and more effective than surveys. This report discusses how this sort of system has been effective in the past, such as Google Flu Trends which effectively estimates the level of influenza in different regions in the US and thus allows healthcare organisations to prepare for this.

However, the paper identifies some issues that come with using big data analytics for international development, primarily security-related. Another big problem is verifying that data comes from legitimate sources, and identifying the cases in which correlation does not strictly equal causation. A lot of data is collected by private companies too, who are reluctant to share this data in an effort to maintain competitiveness. This means governments are restricted to using platforms such as Twitter and information available in the public sphere.

I will use this report in my project to talk about how big data can be used to combat poverty, particularly with relation to real-time data. This includes applications such as early warning systems, to respond to crises faster, as well as using real-time feedback to monitor how newly-implemented policies (to combat poverty) are working. After having read this article, I would like to research further into the feasibility of using data to overcome social problems like poverty and where this data would come from.


Data Age 2025: The Evolution of Data to Life-Critical, https://www.seagate.com/files/www-content/our-story/trends/files/Seagate-WP-DataAge2025-March-2017.pdf

Date Accessed 17/03/2018

This was a piece of research by IDC conducted by Seagate about how the type of data we generate has evolved to become largely critical. There were lots of statistics included in this research, in the form of charts and diagrams which I found very useful visualisations of data.

For example, the chart below shows how much the datasphere has grown over the last decade. 


These will be very useful in my project to illustrate my points about how data has become increasingly prevalent, making it increasingly important that we deal with it adequately while taking into account privacy.

These diagrams also highlight the potential out there to use this data to generate insight that can be used to overcome social problems such as homelessness and poverty, which I have read about in other sources and I hope to explore further in my project.

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