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Big Data: Inside the Algorithm

UOIT Canada Research Chair Carolyn McGregor’s connection to new web-documentary

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The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) is connected in a big way to the National Film Board of Canada’s (NFB) intriguing new look at the world of Big Data.

Dr. Carolyn McGregor, UOIT’s Canada Research Chair in Health Informatics is one of the subject experts in the NFB’s web-documentary series Do Not Track. Dr. McGregor appears in the fifth episode of the interactive series, entitled Big Data: Inside the Algorithm.

How do consumers regain control of how online identities are exploited? Do Not Track goes beyond the traditional documentary experience by becoming the first interactive documentary in which the topic is you. If you agree to share your personal data, you will have an unprecedented opportunity to see in real-time how your identity is being tracked online.

Please note: The NFB indicates that at any time you can access the data the documentary has collected about you and erase it.

“The sheer amount of data being generated from the growing number of personal devices in our daily lives, and the potential ways that this data can be analyzed and used by industry is of growing interest in many countries,” said Dr. McGregor, Professor, UOIT Faculty of Business and Information Technology, whose award-winning neonatal health informatics research project with IBM and The Hospital for Sick Children has drawn consistent international media attention and acclaim from health-care professionals around the globe. “I have seen common themes of acknowledgment of the benefits of Big Data such as the potential to improve health outcomes, along with concerns over privacy and incorrect use of Big Data through the many documentaries and other international media stories I have been asked to be part of.”

Big data ‘tracking’ remains a complex social phenomenon that affects billions of internet users worldwide. The NFB’s web-doc aims to explain tracking in clear, straightforward terms by showing viewers how their online behaviour (browsing) is collected, analyzed and sold.

Online viewers are asked to connect data points as they watch. When they connect certain data together, they access content tailored to their preferences through analytics.  

Every instalment lasts about seven minutes and tackles a different topic:

  • Tracking in this day and age
  • Cookies and fully legal ways in which we will be tracked in the future
  • Social networks and the end of anonymity
  • Mobile phones as veritable tracking devices
  • Big data and its algorithms
  • Filter bubble

In every episode, personal accounts, precise explanations and expert testimonies are correlated with your own daily Internet use, including your browsing history, your geolocation and your social networking activities. Practical solutions are presented on how to remain anonymous online.

Do Not Track is a new breed of interactive project: it is a global experience that is audiovisual and interactive, individual and collective and on the forefront of where our society is headed as a whole.

”Initiatives such as the NFB’s Do Not Track series are vital in helping the public truly understand Big Data and what it means for them,” said Dr. McGregor.

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