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Forget the CV, data decide careers – [FT.com]

I no longer look at somebody’s CV to determine if we will interview them or not,” declares Teri Morse, who oversees the recruitment of 30,000 people each year at Xerox Services. Instead, her team analyses personal data to determine the fate of job candidates.

She is not alone. “Big data” and complex algorithms are increasingly taking decisions out of the hands of individual interviewers – a trend that has far-reaching consequences for job seekers and recruiters alike.

via Forget the CV, data decide careers – FT.com.

Where the World’s Young People Live [theatlantic.com]

Youth populations, at least as a percentage of total population, are shriveling in the United States and many European and Asian nations, while ballooning in regions such as South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Consider two extremes that appear in the graphics below: Fifty percent of Niger’s population is under 14, while 13 percent of Japan’s is.

There’s good reason to feel ambivalent about these developments. Aging populations are usually a product of longer life expectancy and lower birth rates, which in turn result from improvements in health care and family planning. But in these countries, fewer working-age people can translate into slower economic growth and severe strain on social-welfare services think Social Security in the U.S..

via Where the World’s Young People Live – Uri Friedman – The Atlantic.

How big data is transforming public services – expert views [theguardian.com]

What is big data?

It’s a bit of a misnomer: “Ex-Guardian writer Simon Rogers once said, ‘Big data is data that is one bit too much for you to be comfortable’, and this is probably the best definition I’ve read.

“The volume of data is not irrelevant, but not as important as it sounds. More important is the ability to link diverse datasets with each other.”

– Giuseppe Sollazzo, senior systems analyst at St George’s, University of London, and member of the open data user group

It’s about time we dropped the “big” jargon: “It’s just data. Data volume and velocity is exponentially increasing, but has always been too big to easily store and process … One thing that has changed in the last few years is the recognition from decision makers – not just analysts – that data is a valuable resource.”

– Tom Smith, director of the Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion

Why is it important for government?

“Joining up public sector data sources can make government more efficient, save money, identify fraud and help public bodies better serve their citizens.”

– Claire Vyvyan, executive director and general manager of public sector at Dell UK

“Data can enable government to do existing things more cheaply, do existing things better and do new things we don’t currently do.”

– Tom Heath, head of research at the Open Data Institute

via How big data is transforming public services – expert views | Public Leaders Network | Guardian Professional.

Algorithms That Dominate Our World ? [io9.com]

The importance of algorithms in our lives today cannot be overstated. They are used virtually everywhere, from financial institutions to dating sites. But some algorithms shape and control our world more than others — and these ten are the most significant.

Just a quick refresher before we get started. Though there’s no formal definition, computer scientists describe algorithms as a set of rules that define a sequence of operations. They’re a series of instructions that tell a computer how it’s supposed to solve a problem or achieve a certain goal. A good way to think of algorithms is by visualizing a flowchart.

via The 10 Algorithms That Dominate Our World.

The Sharing Economy Needs to Start Sharing Its Data Too [wired.com]

Every reservation is analyzed by Airbnb’s algorithm, which combs it for red flags — new listings that are signing up reservations at a suspicious clip; messages that include the term Western Union — and assigns it a trust score. If the trust score is too low, someone from Airbnb’s trust and safety team will follow up to ensure that everything is on the level. And of course, these efforts are supplemented by Airbnb’s user reviews and comments, which can also steer unsuspecting renters away from dicey properties.

All this seems to work well enough for Airbnb. But as the sharing economy spreads across so many other markets — from car rides to house cleaning — other companies could benefit from this storehouse of data as well. After all, if someone wanted to sign up as a Lyft driver, it would be good to know that they had been banned from Airbnb. That prospect has led some to predict the dawn of a fully reputation-based economy — one in which your behavior and track record follows you from service to service, a kind of FICO score for the sharing economy that would let both platforms and individuals know how trustworthy you are based on your history and activity.

via The Sharing Economy Needs to Start Sharing Its Data Too | Business | WIRED.

How Helsinki Became the Most Successful Open-Data City in the World [theatlanticcities.com]

HELSINKI, Finland — If there’s something you’d like to know about Helsinki, someone in the city administration most likely has the answer. For more than a century, this city has funded its own statistics bureaus to keep data on the population, businesses, building permits, and most other things you can think of. Today, that information is stored and freely available on the internet by an appropriately named agency, City of Helsinki Urban Facts.

There’s a potential problem, though. Helsinki may be Finland’s capital and largest city, with 620,000 people. But it’s only one of more than a dozen municipalities in a metropolitan area of almost 1.5 million. So in terms of urban data, if you’re only looking at Helsinki, you’re missing out on more than half of the picture.

Helsinki and three of its neighboring cities are now banding together to solve that problem. Through an entity called Helsinki Region Infoshare, they are bringing together their data so that a fuller picture of the metro area can come into view.

That’s not all. At the same time these datasets are going regional, they’re also going “open.” Helsinki Region Infoshare publishes all of its data in formats that make it easy for software developers, researchers, journalists and others to analyze, combine or turn into web-based or mobile applications that citizens may find useful.

via How Helsinki Became the Most Successful Open-Data City in the World – Olli Sulopuisto – The Atlantic Cities.

The Limits of Big Data: A Review of Social Physics by Alex Pentland [technologyreview.com]

In 1969, Playboy published a long, freewheeling interview with Marshall McLuhan in which the media theorist and sixties icon sketched a portrait of the future that was at once seductive and repellent. Noting the ability of digital computers to analyze data and communicate messages, he predicted that the machines eventually would be deployed to fine-tune society’s workings. “The computer can be used to direct a network of global thermostats to pattern life in ways that will optimize human awareness,” he said. “Already, it’s technologically feasible to employ the computer to program societies in beneficial ways.” He acknowledged that such centralized control raised the specter of “brainwashing, or far worse,” but he stressed that “the programming of societies could actually be conducted quite constructively and humanistically.”

via The Limits of Big Data: A Review of Social Physics by Alex Pentland | MIT Technology Review.

I Know Where You Were Last Summer: London’s public bike data is telling everyone where you’ve been [vartree.blogspot.co.uk]

This article is about a publicly available dataset of bicycle journey data that contains enough information to track the movements of individual cyclists across London, for a six month period just over a year ago.

I’ll also explore how this dataset could be linked with other datasets to identify the actual people who made each of these journeys, and the privacy concerns this kind of linking raises.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that there is a publicly available Transport For London dataset that contains records of bike journeys for London’s bicycle hire scheme. What may surprise you is that this record includes unique customer identifiers, as well as the location and date/time for the start and end of each journey. The public dataset currently covers a period of six months between 2012 and 2013.

What are the consequences of this? It means that someone who has access to the data can extract and analyse the journeys made by individual cyclists within London during that time, and with a little effort, it’s possible to find the actual people who have made the journeys.

via The Variable Tree: I Know Where You Were Last Summer: London’s public bike data is telling everyone where you’ve been.

Big data: are we making a big mistake? [FT.com]

Five years ago, a team of researchers from Google announced a remarkable achievement in one of the world’s top scientific journals, Nature. Without needing the results of a single medical check-up, they were nevertheless able to track the spread of influenza across the US. What’s more, they could do it more quickly than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Google’s tracking had only a day’s delay, compared with the week or more it took for the CDC to assemble a picture based on reports from doctors’ surgeries. Google was faster because it was tracking the outbreak by finding a correlation between what people searched for online and whether they had flu symptoms.

via Big data: are we making a big mistake? – FT.com.

Big Data Means Big Questions on How That Information Is Used [NYTimes.com]

As researchers contemplate mining the students’ details, however, the university is grappling with ethical issues raised by the collection and analysis of these huge data sets, known familiarly as Big Data, said L. Rafael Reif, the president of M.I.T.

For instance, he said, serious privacy breaches could hypothetically occur if someone were to correlate the personal forum postings of online students with institutional records that the university had de-identified for research purposes.

via Big Data Means Big Questions on How That Information Is Used – NYTimes.com.

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