Big Data Overview

Collect and Process Data for Your Organization's Needs

Human service delivery has the promise to be revolutionized via the use of "big data" drawn from multiple databases across government agencies, non-government agencies, and other organizations. Yet there are scientific, ethical, and legal issues that still need to be explored.


Some of the scientific or algorithmic challenges with "big data" and human services include incomplete datasets, subjective interpretations of service provision terms, the preparation or sampling/filtering of the data, and a series of decisions that need to be made to include or exclude "outlier" data. in addition, algorithms are constructed by people and "soft" human services terms are subject to interpretation.


Some of the ethical concerns associated with the use of "big data" for human services provision includes who owns the data, privacy issues, and the potential to identify an individual if enough data is presented from various datasets.


Finally a number of legal issues with the use of "big data" and human services present themselves. Assigning traits that might typically belong to a group and asserting that it applies to every member of that group is a form of racial, ethnic, or religious profiling that is illegal. Finally the outcomes predicted by "big data" may require actons applied to an individual that are not legal in his or her specific jurisdiction.