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Financial Times Review of “Predictive Analytics”: “Ignores Dark Overtones”

The Financial Times reviewed my book, Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die.

 

Click here to read the full Financial Times review (free membership required).

 

Excerpt from the book review:

Book Review: Data's Darker Overtones Ignored

By Emma Jacobs

The jacket for Eric Siegel’s Predictive Analytics: the Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die, contains a description of the “omnipresent science” of predictive analytics as affecting “everyone, every day. Although largely unseen, it drives millions of decisions, determining whom to call, mail, investigate, incarcerate”.

 

It is an ominous phrase, coming at the same time as Edward Snowden’s claims that the National Security Agency had access to information from the servers of internet companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

 

The data, the US whistleblower has said, are used to track foreign nationals suspected of terrorism or spying.

 

The claims have cast a shadow on the use of data by companies. The book’s author, a former Columbia University professor, is rather more gung-ho about the potency of using data, possibly unsurprising as he has also founded the Predictive Analytics World series of conferences.

 

Prof Siegel only briefly raises the privacy implications of data use, citing a rather flip reference to the comic character Spider-Man's uncle: "With great power comes great responsibility."

 

More seriously, he states that: "[This] is an important, blossoming science. Foretelling your future behaviour and revealing your intentions, it's an extremely powerful tool – and one with significant potential for misuse."
 

My response to the book review:

Although, to be honest, this critical review probably serves my book well, I would respond to the book critic's main point by saying that the book in fact does something unprecedented among those written by technology practitioners: It addresses privacy and other civil liberty concerns up front – in Chapter 2, which is entirely devoted to the matter (not briefly or fliply, as Jacobs claims). To access a number of articles covering these ethical concerns, go to the "Press" page on the book's website, http://www.thepredictionbook.com.

 

What are your thoughts on the matter?

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Tags: Eric, Siegel, analysis, analytics, author, big, book, churn, crowdsourcing, data, More…decision, lift, mining, modeling, net, predictive, text, trees, uplift

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Comment by Eric Siegel on August 23, 2013 at 1:54pm

Thanks very much for the positive feedback, Ashish!

Comment by Ashish Warudkar on August 23, 2013 at 10:06am

Dr. Siegel.. humanity does not build statues for critics .. the author has not read your book and is sensationalizing.. your book does an extensive coverage of the topic around ethics and privacy.

Great book.  Thnx..

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