Most of the data available to—or sought by—computational social scientists today is generated to answer questions that have nothing to do with their research. The data instead bears the mark of its original purpose, be that targeted advertisements or personalized insurance premiums.
The current model, in which the digital traces of our lives are monopolized by corporations, threatens the ability of society to produce the rigorous, independent research needed to tackle pressing issues. It also restricts what information can be accessed and the questions that can be asked. This limits progress in understanding complex phenomena, from how vaccine coverage alters behaviour to how algorithms influence the spread of misinformation.
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