Big Data and Chicago's Traffic-cam Scandal

Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal: “The danger is microscopic regulation that we invite via the democratic process.
Big data techniques are new in the world. It will take time to know how to feel about them and whether and how they should be legally corralled. For sheer inanity, though, there’s no beating a recent White House report quivering about the alleged menace of “digital redlining,” or the use of big-data marketing tactics in ways that supposedly disadvantage minority groups.
This alarm rests on an extravagant misunderstanding. Redlining was a crude method banks used to avoid losses in bad neighborhoods even at the cost of missing some profitable transactions—exactly the inefficiency big data is meant to improve upon. Failing to lure an eligible customer into a sale, after all, is hardly the goal of any business.
The real danger of the new technologies lies elsewhere, which the White House slightly touches upon in some of its fretting about police surveillance. The danger is microscopic regulation of our daily activities that we will invite on ourselves through the democratic process.
Soon it may be impossible to leave our homes without our movements being tracked by traffic and security cameras able to read license plates, identify faces and pull up data about any individual, from social media postings to credit reports.
Private businesses are just starting to use these techniques to monitor shoppers in front of shelves of goodies. Towns and cities have already embraced such techniques as revenue grabs, encouraged by private contractors peddling automated traffic cameras.
Witness a festering Chicago scandal. This month came federal indictments of a former city bureaucrat, an outside consultant, and the former CEO of Redflex Traffic Systems, the company that operated the city’s traffic cameras until last year….”