Making Big Data Inclusive

Guest post by Sarah Elizabeth Malanga, Fellow, Regulatory Science Program, James E. Rogers College of Law, University of Arizona, based on her presentation at the Petrie-Flom Center’s 2016 Annual Conference, “Big Data, Health Law, and Bioethics,” held on May 6, 2016, at Harvard Law School.

Cross-posted from the Hastings Center’s Bioethics Forum.

Big Data, which is derived from a multitude of sources including, social media, “wearables,” electronic health records, and health insurances claims, is increasingly being used in health care and it can potentially improve the way medical professionals diagnose and treat illnesses.

But what happens when Big Data only captures a snapshot of the population, rather than an overall picture of the population as a whole? The sources that generate Big Data – the Internet and credit card use, electronic health records, health insurance claims – are not utilized by everyone. Certain demographics may be missing from or underrepresented in Big Data because they do not own smartphones, have access to the Internet, or visit doctors on a regular basis because they lack health insurance. These sectors of the population disproportionately include low-income individuals, minority groups such as blacks and Hispanics, and the elderly. Read More