The Broken Window

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This might be the ultimate data mining thriller: The Broken Window by Jeffrey Deaver. I recently finished this book and was amazed by the topic and the way that the author painted a rather scary picture of how data and data mining can be used.

Now I don't really believe that most of what's in the book could actually happen since, like most thrilling stories, they expect technology to perform at a pace and level that it's not capable of, and might not be capable of for a long time. The story does bring to light the dangers of all the data that companies store and maintain through a bit of exaggeration. And, as Mr. Deaver is known for, it is woven inside a thrilling murder story.

In the story, we're all "16s", referring to the codes that each person is assigned to anonymize the data about them. It reminded me of GUIDs and how those certainly would make it hard to track things down for humans. But not impossible, and perhaps not even hard for some data professionals.

In the story, the murderer works for a large company that provides data mining services to all sorts of companies, including the police itself. They take raw data in and provide interfaces back to the companies which allow them to get the results of data mining. While I'm sure there are companies that do this, the book shows the danger in this and provides a great argument for companies not being able to outsource this function. While it's unlikely that one company would ever hold the monopoly that's portrayed in the book, did anyone ever think one company would have such a huge market share of a desktop OS?

I'm not implying that Microsoft can't be trusted, but I think that any company that would be allowed to centrally control so much data, including any government, has a huge potential for abuse.

I thought this was a great read from the data perspective, and would definitely recommend it, especially for the data people out there.

Steve Jones

PS - You can support my Kindle habit and buy it through the link above from Amazon if you'd like.


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