ENTRIES TAGGED "political data"

Strata Week: What to do with Obama’s election tech — open source vs mothballs

The battle to open source OFA code; a student hacker uncovers security flaw, gets expelled; and ethics and taxes for user data collection.

A cloudy future for Obama’s election code

Obama for America AppA battle is brewing between politicians and the dream team of programmers that helped Obama win the nerdiest election ever. Ben Popper reports at The Verge that the programmers who worked on the Obama for America (OFA) 2012 campaign want to open source the code behind the campaign’s website, its donation collection and email systems, and its mobile app. Yet “[t]hree months after the election, the data and software is still tightly controlled by the president and his campaign staff, with the fate of the code still largely undecided,” Popper writes.

OFA’s director of front-engineering Daniel Ryan told Popper that he believes the Democratic National Committee (DNC) will “mothball” the tech and argues that it should be open because it was built on top of open source code and, therefore, should go back to the public. Popper also notes that if the DNC keeps the code on ice until the 2016 election, it will be useless. “But if our work was open and people were forking it and improving it all the time,” Ryan told Popper, “then it keeps up with changes as we go.” Ryan also points out that not opening up the code not only would stifle development for the next election, but would also hinder opportunities for other progressive organizations to build on the code in the next four years.

Popper reports that a DNC official responded to a request for comment, stating that “OFA is still working out the future of their tech and data infrastructure so any speculation at this time is premature and uninformed.” You can read Popper’s in-depth report at The Verge.

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Strata Week: Political data mining “bait-and-switch”

Inaugural 2013 app has plans for your data, the "unprecedented" security issues of the Internet of Things, and optical switches speed up data centers.

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

Inaugural 2013 app takes as much as it gives

Inaugural2013appThe Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) launched the first official inaugural smartphone app, Inaugural 2013 (for iOS and for Android), Monday. Daniel Strauss reports in a post at The Hill that inauguration attendees can use the app to locate and RSVP to events, watch events via livestream, and navigate the event with an interactive map.

What isn’t front and center in the pomp and circumstance of the shiny new app are the terms of service and the privacy statement. Steve Friess at Politico points out that in the fine print, users are giving the PIC permission to share their data — phone numbers, email, home addresses, and GPS location data, for instance — “with candidates, organizations, groups or causes that [the PIC] believe have similar political viewpoints, principles or objectives.”

Gregory Ferenstein reports at TechCrunch that “privacy advocates find it troubling that the fine-print on the PIC’s website says it can use activity data ‘without limitation in advertising, fundraising and other communications in support of PIC and the principles of the Democratic party, without any right of compensation or attribution.’”

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Strata Week: Big data’s daily influence

Big data's broad effect on our world, myriad uses for traffic data, and Obama's big data practice vs. policy.

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

How big data is transforming just about everything

Professor John Naughton took a look this week at how big data is transforming various industries that affect our daily lives.

He highlights finance, of course, which he says has been “pathologically mathematised;” marketing, for which there is more data about human behavior than we’ve ever had; and the very broad category of science. Naughton notes that researchers used to conjure up theories and look to data to support or refute; now, researchers turn to data to find patterns and connections that might inspire new theories. Naughton also looks at medicine, which is just on the brink of delving into the big data realm. He writes:

“Last week’s news about how Cambridge researchers stopped an MRSA outbreak affecting 12 babies in the Rosie Hospital by rapidly sequencing the genome of the bacteria illustrates how medicine has become a data-intensive field. Even a few years ago, the resources required to achieve this would have involved a roomful of computers and upwards of a week.”

Naughton addresses the use of big data in sports as well, speculating that baseball has been the sport most transformed by data. He’ll likely find agreement there. Barry Eggers goes into depth on the dramatic effect big data is having on baseball over at TechCrunch. He notes that simple data analysis of statistics, which baseball has embraced since its beginnings, has evolved into gathering mountains of unstructured data and employing Hadoop to gain new and better insights from data that isn’t part of the structured game information. Eggers writes:

“By having his data scientist run a Hadoop job before every game, [San Francisco Giants manager] Bruce Bochy can not only make an informed decision about where to locate a 3-1 Matt Cain pitch to Prince Fielder, but he can also predict how and where the ball might be hit, how much ground his infielders and outfielders can cover on such a hit, and thus determine where to shift his defense. Taken one step further, it’s not hard to imagine a day where managers like Bochy have their locker room data scientist run real-time, in-game analytics using technologies like Cassandra, Hbase, Drill, and Impala.”

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Strata Week: Data-driven politics

Big data's role in the US presidential election, trends shaping the future of data, and extenuating consequences of the Megaupload case.

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

Big data, big politics

In the aftermath of the US presidential election, much attention has been focused on Nate Silver’s art of predicting the election results with data. Some looked at it from a coverage angle and how Silver’s work in the spotlight will affect the process of covering elections in the future. John McDermott reports at AdAge that Silver’s work will help shift the “nebulous aspects” of reporting that focus on “feel” and “momentum” to reporting that is anchored in facts and statistics. ComScore analyst Andrew Lipsman said to McDermott, “Now that people have seen [statistics-driven political analysis] proven over a couple of cycles, people will be more grounded in the numbers.”

Which also shows the attention Silver attracted may serve to help democratize big data as well. Tarun Wadhwa reports at Forbes that the power of big data has finally been realized in the US political process:

“Beyond just personal vindication, Silver has proven to the public the power of Big Data in transforming our electoral process. We already rely on statistical models to do everything from flying our airplanes to predicting the weather. This serves as yet another example of computers showing their ability to be better at handling the unknown than loud-talking experts. By winning ‘the nerdiest election in the history of the American Republic,’ Barack Obama has cemented the role of Big Data in every aspect of the campaigning process. His ultimate success came from the work of historic get-out-the-vote efforts dominated by targeted messaging and digital behavioral tracking.”

Michael Scherer at Time has an in-depth look at the role big data and data mining played in Obama’s campaign as well. Campaign manager Jim Messina, Scherer writes, “promised a totally different, metric-driven kind of campaign in which politics was the goal but political instincts might not be the means” and hired dozens of data crunchers to establish an analytics department. The team put together a massive database that merged information from all areas of the campaign — social media, pollsters, consumer databases, fundraisers, etc. — into one central location. Scherer reports: “The new megafile didn’t just tell the campaign how to find voters and get their attention; it also allowed the number crunchers to run tests predicting which types of people would be persuaded by certain kinds of appeals.”

Scherer’s piece is a fascinating look at how data was put to use in a successful presidential campaign. It is this week’s recommended read.

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