Household Financial Transaction Data

Paper by Scott R. Baker & Lorenz Kueng: “The growth of the availability and use of detailed household financial transaction microdata has dramatically expanded the ability of researchers to understand both household decision-making as well as aggregate fluctuations across a wide range of fields. This class of transaction data is derived from a myriad of sources including financial institutions, FinTech apps, and payment intermediaries. We review how these detailed data have been utilized in finance and economics research and the benefits they enable beyond more traditional measures of income, spending, and wealth. We discuss the future potential for this flexible class of data in firm-focused research, real-time policy analysis, and macro statistics….(More)”.

Lessons learned from telco data informing COVID-19 responses: toward an early warning system for future pandemics?

Introduction to a special issue of Data and Policy (Open Access) by Richard Benjamins, Jeanine Vos, and Stefaan Verhulst: “More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the damage is still unfolding. While some countries have recently managed to gain an element of control through aggressive vaccine campaigns, much of the developing world — South and Southeast Asia in particular — remain in a state of crisis. Given what we now know about the global nature of this disease and the potential for mutant versions to develop and spread, a crisis anywhere is cause for concern everywhere. The world remains very much in the grip of this public health crisis.

From the beginning, there has been hope that data and technology could offer solutions to help inform the government’s response strategy and decision-making. Many of the expectations have been focused on mobile data analytics in particular, whereby mobile network operators create mobility insights and decision-support tools generated from anonymized and aggregated telco data. This stems both from a growing group of mobile network operators having significantly invested in systems and capabilities to develop such products and services for public and private sector customers. As well as their value having been demonstrated in addressing different global challenges, ranging from models to better understand the spread of Zika in Brazil to interactive dashboards to aid emergency services during earthquakes and floods in Japan. Yet despite these experiences, many governments across the world still have limited awareness, capabilities and resources to leverage these tools, in their efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 using non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI), both from a medical and economic point of view.

Today, we release the first batch of papers of a special collection of Data & Policy that examines both the potential of mobile data, as well as the challenges faced in delivering these tools to inform government decision-making. Consisting of 5 papers from 33 researchers and experts from academia, industry and government, the articles cover a wide range of geographies, including Europe, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Austria, Belgium, and Spain. Responding to our call for case studies to illustrate the opportunities (and challenges) offered by mobile big data in the fight against COVID-19, the authors of these papers describe a number of examples of how mobile and mobile-related data have been used to address the medical, economic, socio-cultural and political aspects of the pandemic….(More)”.

Big Tech platforms in health research: Re-purposing big data governance in light of the General Data Protection Regulation’s research exemption

Paper by Luca Marelli, Giuseppe Testa, and Ine van Hoyweghen: “The emergence of a global industry of digital health platforms operated by Big Tech corporations, and its growing entanglements with academic and pharmaceutical research networks, raise pressing questions on the capacity of current data governance models, regulatory and legal frameworks to safeguard the sustainability of the health research ecosystem. In this article, we direct our attention toward the challenges faced by the European General Data Protection Regulation in regulating the potentially disruptive engagement of Big Tech platforms in health research. The General Data Protection Regulation upholds a rather flexible regime for scientific research through a number of derogations to otherwise stricter data protection requirements, while providing a very broad interpretation of the notion of “scientific research”. Precisely the breadth of these exemptions combined with the ample scope of this notion could provide unintended leeway to the health data processing activities of Big Tech platforms, which have not been immune from carrying out privacy-infringing and socially disruptive practices in the health domain. We thus discuss further finer-grained demarcations to be traced within the broadly construed notion of scientific research, geared to implementing use-based data governance frameworks that distinguish health research activities that should benefit from a facilitated data protection regime from those that should not. We conclude that a “re-purposing” of big data governance approaches in health research is needed if European nations are to promote research activities within a framework of high safeguards for both individual citizens and society….(More)”.

New York vs Big Tech: Lawmakers Float Data Tax in Privacy Push

GovTech article: “While New York is not the first state to propose data privacy legislation, it is the first to propose a data privacy bill that would implement a tax on big tech companies that benefit from the sale of New Yorkers’ consumer data.

Known as the Data Economy Labor Compensation and Accountability Act, the bill looks to enact a 2 percent tax on annual receipts earned off New York residents’ data. This tax and other rules and regulations aimed at safeguarding citizens’ data will be enforced by a newly created Office of Consumer Data Protection outlined in the bill.

The office would require all data controllers and processors to register annually in order to meet state compliance requirements. Failure to do so, the bill states, would result in fines.

As for the tax, all funds will be put toward improving education and closing the digital divide.

“The revenue from the tax will be put towards digital literacy, workforce redevelopment, STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), K-12 education, workforce reskilling and retraining,” said Sen. Andrew Gounardes, D-22.

As for why the bill is being proposed now, Gounardes said, “Every day, big tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google capitalize on the unpaid labor of billions of people to create their products and services through targeted advertising and artificial intelligence.”…(More)”

Mapping the United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics against new and big data sources

Paper by Dominik Rozkrut, Olga Świerkot-Strużewska, and Gemma Van Halderen: “Never has there been a more exciting time to be an official statistician. The data revolution is responding to the demands of the CoVID-19 pandemic and a complex sustainable development agenda to improve how data is produced and used, to close data gaps to prevent discrimination, to build capacity and data literacy, to modernize data collection systems and to liberate data to promote transparency and accountability. But can all data be liberated in the production and communication of official statistics? This paper explores the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics in the context of eight new and big data sources. The paper concludes each data source can be used for the production of official statistics in adherence with the Fundamental Principles and argues these data sources should be used if National Statistical Systems are to adhere to the first Fundamental Principle of compiling and making available official statistics that honor citizen’s entitlement to public information….(More)”.

Global inequality remotely sensed

Paper by M. Usman Mirza et al: “Economic inequality is notoriously difficult to quantify as reliable data on household incomes are missing for most of the world. Here, we show that a proxy for inequality based on remotely sensed nighttime light data may help fill this gap. Individual households cannot be remotely sensed. However, as households tend to segregate into richer and poorer neighborhoods, the correlation between light emission and economic thriving shown in earlier studies suggests that spatial variance of remotely sensed light per person might carry a signal of economic inequality.

To test this hypothesis, we quantified Gini coefficients of the spatial variation in average nighttime light emitted per person. We found a significant relationship between the resulting light-based inequality indicator and existing estimates of net income inequality. This correlation between light-based Gini coefficients and traditional estimates exists not only across countries, but also on a smaller spatial scale comparing the 50 states within the United States. The remotely sensed character makes it possible to produce high-resolution global maps of estimated inequality. The inequality proxy is entirely independent from traditional estimates as it is based on observed light emission rather than self-reported household incomes. Both are imperfect estimates of true inequality. However, their independent nature implies that the light-based proxy could be used to constrain uncertainty in traditional estimates. More importantly, the light-based Gini maps may provide an estimate of inequality where previously no data were available at all….(More)”.

Digital Identity, Virtual Borders and Social Media: A Panacea for Migration Governance?

Book edited by Emre Eren Korkmaz: “…discusses how states deploy frontier and digital technologies to manage and control migratory movements. Assessing the development of blockchain technologies for digital identities and cash transfer; artificial intelligence for smart borders, resettlement of refugees and assessing asylum applications; social media and mobile phone applications to track and surveil migrants, it critically examines the consequences of new technological developments and evaluates their impact on the rights of migrants and refugees.

Chapters evaluate the technology-based public-private projects that govern migration globally and illustrate the political implications of these virtual borders. International contributors compare and contrast different forms of political expression, in both personal technologies, such as social media for refugees and smugglers, and automated decision-making algorithms used by states to enable migration governance. This timely book challenges hegemonic approach to migration governance and provides cases demonstrating the dangers of employing frontier technologies denying basic rights, liberties and agencies of migrants and refugees.

Stepping into a contentious political climate for migrants and refugees, this provocative book is ideal reading for scholars and researchers of political science and public policy, particularly those focusing on migration and refugee studies. It will also benefit policymakers and practitioners dealing with migration, such as humanitarian NGOs, UN agencies and local authorities….(More)”.

What Is Mobility Data? Where Is It Used?

Brief by Andrew J. Zahuranec, Stefaan Verhulst, Andrew Young, Aditi Ramesh, and Brennan Lake: “Mobility data is data about the geographic location of a device passively produced through normal activity. Throughout the pandemic, public health experts and public officials have used mobility data to understand patterns of COVID-19’s spread and the impact of disease control measures. However, privacy advocates and others have questioned the need for this data and raised concerns about the capacity of such data-driven tools to facilitate surveillance, improper data use, and other exploitative practices.

In April, The GovLab, Cuebiq, and the Open Data Institute released The Use of Mobility Data for Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic, which relied on several case studies to look at the opportunities, risks, and challenges associated with mobility data. Today, we hope to supplement that report with a new resource: a brief on what mobility data is and the different types of data it can include. The piece is a one-pager to allow decision-makers to easily read it. It provides real-world examples from the report to illustrate how different data types can be used in a responsible way…..(More)”.

The Ethics and Laws of Medical Big Data

Chapter by Hrefna Gunnarsdottir et al: “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that leveraging medical big data can help to better predict and control outbreaks from the outset. However, there are still challenges to overcome in the 21st century to efficiently use medical big data, promote innovation and public health activities and, at the same time, adequately protect individuals’ privacy. The metaphor that property is a “bundle of sticks”, each representing a different right, applies equally to medical big data. Understanding medical big data in this way raises a number of questions, including: Who has the right to make money off its buying and selling, or is it inalienable? When does medical big data become sufficiently stripped of identifiers that the rights of an individual concerning the data disappear? How have different regimes such as the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in the US answered these questions differently? In this chapter, we will discuss three topics: (1) privacy and data sharing, (2) informed consent, and (3) ownership. We will identify and examine ethical and legal challenges and make suggestions on how to address them. In our discussion of each of the topics, we will also give examples related to the use of medical big data during the COVID-19 pandemic, though the issues we raise extend far beyond it….(More)”.

How Big Data is Transforming the Way We Plan Our Cities

Paper by Rawad Choubassi and Lamia Abdelfattah: “The availability of ubiquitous location-based data in cities has had far-reaching implications on analytical powers in various disciplines. This article focuses on some of the accrued benefits to urban transport planners and the urban planning field at large. It contends that the gains of Big Data and real-time information has not only improved analytical strength, but has also created ripple effects in the systemic approaches of city planning, integrating ex-post studies within the design cycle and redefining the planning process as a microscopic, iterative and self-correcting process. Case studies from the field are used to further highlight these newfound abilities to process fine-grained analyses and propose more customized location-based solutions, offered by Big Data. A detailed description of the Torrance Living Lab experience maps out some of the potentials of using movement data from Big Data sources to design an alternative mobility plan for a low-density urban area. Finally, the paper reflects on Big Data’s limited capacity at present to replace traditional forecast modelling tools, despite demonstrated advantages over traditional methods in gaining insight from past and present travel trends….(More)”.