Thursday, March 06, 2008

Mining voters

While the presidential candidates are still doing their dances, it's interesting to see how they use datamining for improving their stance: The candidates apparently use companies that mine their voter databases in order to "micro-target" voters via ads and the like. See this blog posting on The New Republic-- courtesy of former student Igor Nakshin. Note also the comment about the existence of various such companies that tailor to the different candidates.

It would be interesting to test the impact of this "mining" on actual candidate voting and to compare the different tools. But how can this be done in an objective manner without the companies actually sharing their data? That would fall in the area of "privacy-preserving data mining".

New data repository by UN

As more government and other agencies move "online", some actually make their data publicly available. Adi Gadwale, one of my dedicated ex-students, sent a note about a new neat data repository made publicly available by the UN called UNdata. You can read more about it in the UN News bulletin or go directly to repository at

The interface is definitely easy to navigate. Lots of time series for the different countries on many types of measurements. This is a good source of data that can be used to supplement other existing datasets (like one would use US census data to supplement demographic information).

Another interesting data repository is TRAC. It's mission is to obtain and provide all information that should be public by the Freedom of Information Act. It has data on many US agencies. Some data are free for download, but to get access to all the neat stuff you (or your institution) need a subscription.