Decision MediaWorks

DCF: A Sign of Things To Come

We saw this article from the Miami-Herald about the Department of Children and Families new fraud prevention technology. The article says the new LexisNexis program “uses complex algorithms and ‘billions and billions of records across multiple decades’ to perform what it calls identity analytics.”

The Department would not identify the “secret sauce” of the program so we decided to demystify the technology for you.

The new program uses the same technique that Facebook uses to verify your identity. The program randomly asks applicants about a piece of information from their history, just like when Facebook asks you to identify pictures of your friends if you are locked out of your account.

The DCF program figures out what information to ask about by searching for public records associated with an applicant. The “algorithms” (a set of instructions to a computer) for searching these documents and matching them to an applicant are not really that “complex” in a technical sense. It works something like this:

1.The computer is told to “go find all records that match the set of information (name, phone number, social security number, address, etc.) provided by the applicant.”

2.The computer finds these documents and then ranks them by what documents look like the best match. This is kind of like how Google ranks your searches.

3.Another algorithm searches the best matching documents for predefined data fields (year, color, location) and generates a question to the applicant based on that information. For example, drawing from a birth certificate the question may be “What city were you born in?” Or from a car registration you could get “What color was your 2007 Honda Accord?”

The real cost drivers for these Big Data programs are the collection and storage of the data. Those costs however, continue to rapidly fall which will allow new programs like this come online over the next decade across the public sector. For instance, a similar program could not be used to verify voter identities.

As always, if you found this interesting please share and subscribe to our mailing list on the sidebar for our quarterly Data Intelligence Briefings.

How the Government Will Destroy Google

No Florida specific angle today but I wanted to address the NSA data mining program and the impacts it could have on things we take for granted in the “connection economy.”

If you are unfamiliar with the connection economy, it is a term coined by author Seth Godin that describes what businesses like Facebook, Google, Amazon and this blog have in common. They all exist to connect people with specialized interests to other people and things that satisfy those interests.

In the economy of old, we exchanged money for goods and services. In the connection economy, we exchange information about ourselves for information about something else. I give Facebook a profile and I get connected with my friends from high school. I give Google a search query and I find the best website for dog training.

We trust (and trust is the oil of all free market transactions) that all this data generated by us and billions of other people is used for only two purposes:

1)      Sell ad space to people who want to sell things to people like me.

2)      Make their websites more useful to me in the future.

That is the business model of the biggest players in the connection economy, but it requires that our data is not used for any purposes contrary to our interests.

Google has an unofficial motto of “don’t be evil” because if the company is ever seen as untrustworthy with data, then its business model will collapse. If we no longer trust Google with our email and search queries, then Google has less data to improve its products and target ads. This means the value of ads on Google fall, and revenues plummet.  Good-bye Google.

For this reason, it is particularly heinous that businesses were compelled to breech our trust and handover our data (without a warrant) to an entity assuredly not seeking to sell us designer shoes at low prices.

More unfortunate, is that the entity taking our data has violated an explicit agreement that prevents it from taking our data without warrant.

I leave this post with one question: If we would not tolerate the installation of government video cameras over our shoulder to watch our online activity, then why would we permit them to watch our online activity from the other end of the pipeline?

Data Intelligence Briefing #1 “Trending In The Florida Legislature”…Coming Soon.

Later this month, we are going to be releasing our first Data Intelligence Briefing (DIB) titled “Trending In The Florida Legislature.” The DIB will provide you with detailed forecasts of which Florida legislative districts are going to become swing seats in the next few cycles.

Whether you are an observer or operative in the Florida process, this is a must read to keep ahead of the competition. The DIB will only be sent to our email subscribers so sign up on the sidebar at right. We promise not to spam you or share your information.

Every DIB will be easy-to-read, packed with graphics and provide you with actionable information- info you can use right now to better understand the world of Florida politics and policy. Again, DIBs are free to readers. All you have to do is fill in the “Email Sign-Up” on the side bar and we will send you the first DIB in later this month.

A Little Bit More About Us

Welcome to the Decision MediaWorks blog! We are a boutique data science company that is fired up about helping clients gain insight from mounds of data.

The content on our blog focuses on Florida politics and policy. There’s not a lot of quality data analysis being done on state level issues and Decision MediaWorks fills that while showing off our data chops to potential clients.

We will cover other subjects for sure, but Sunshine State items will certainly be oversampled (data pun!).

We are very interested in your feedback as we roll out content. A lot of the things you will see in the blog are experimental, so we need your help knowing what works and what doesn’t. If you catch an error in our data, find an interactive viz awkward or just think the layout is ugly…let us know.

We want to be a nexus for curious people who say things like “I wonder what the data says about that?”

So, if you’re interested in drilling through the drivel that passes for internet analysis, we think you have a home right here at Decision MediaWorks.com.

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