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  Friday, April 16, 2004

  The Dark Side of Numbers: The Role of Population Data Systems in Human Rights Abuses

danah boyd:

Many people have heard me tell an anecdote that i learned while living in Holland: At the turn of the century, the Dutch government collected mass amounts of data about its citizens with good intentions. In order to give people proper burials, they included religion. In 1939, the Nazis invaded and captured that data in less than 3 days. A larger percentage of Dutch Jews died than any other Jews because of this system.

Well, i'd been searching for a citation for a while. Tonight, i remembered to ask Google Answers and in less than an hour, had a perfect citation:

The Dark Side of Numbers: The Role of Population Data Systems in Human Rights Abuses. Social Research, Summer, 2001, by William Seltzer, Margo Anderson

The essay is even better than my anecdote and i truly believe that anyone in the business of doing data capture should be required to read this.

I knew the story (did my readings on Dutch history), but didn't think about connecting it with current thinking on transparency. One more reason to repeat my own point: transparency is good in many cases, but I don't want all my data easily accessible in one place.

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© Copyright 2002-2005 Lilia Efimova.

This weblog is my learning diary. Sometimes I write about things related to my work, but the views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

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