Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Don't trust your data!

One of my coworkers (I work in a data factory) has a sign in his cube. It has a registration card from a Republican organization, and the sign reads "Don't Trust your Data." I know, statistics humor, hardly funny.

But today I found this article on MSNBC about the recent problems that Choicepoint has been having. Choice point is a supplier for one of my clients so I found this article very interesting. They do age validation for my client where they use an individuals name and address to verify that they are eligable for certain programs. But apparently one year at a conference they looked up data for one of the girls I worked with and they had EVERYTHING.

But besides the security issues which are clearly vast. What is the point in having all of this information if much of it is wrong? Granted the MSBNC article gives only a few examples, and probably neglected to mention individuals whose reports were accurate. But if a company is going to provide complete information on an individual do they not have a responsibility to both their clients and the individual that the information provided be accurate?

This is the kind of thing that makes me wary of massive surveys or other efforts to obtain data about the public. Now that information is so much more readily available, that leaves more room for errors.

(If you do a google search for my name you will come up with about 82 entries. 5 of which actually pertain to me and the rest belong to others. My name is fairly unique so that helps, but I feel sorry for the others whose history might someone get mangled up with mine. Poor Choicepoint, they must be so confused.)

Anyway, this is also one of the reasons I don't use my real name on this blog. I don't want future employers to read my political or ideological musings because they were able to track me down.

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