The unprecedented wave of personal data being collected by such sites as Facebook, Twitter and OkCupid raises privacy concerns and commercial hopes—as well as a unique opportunity for social science. OkCupid co-founder Rudder drills down into that last category via charts, graphs and intriguing analyses of human behavior gleaned from the wealth of social data now available. He finds, for example, that women with polarizing appearances (appealing to some, off-putting to others) are more likely to get dates than those who are conventionally attractive. Because this information is based not on surveys or artificial experiments but on human actions, “our privileged data exposes attitudes that most people would never cop to in public,” Rudder writes.
This article was originally published with the title "Recommended: Dataclysm" in Scientific American 311, 2, 78 (August 2014)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Clara Moskowitzis Scientific American's senior editor covering space and physics. She has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University and a graduate degree in science journalism from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Follow Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz Credit: Nick Higgins