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SXSW 2017

Small Plates, Big Data: Food Tracking & Privacy

Modern Britons drink more coffee than tea, according to data analyzed by the Open Data Institute. Their research provided insight into the cultural trends of a nation, and it raised concern that a tradition was dying. Our culinary habits are paramount to our cultural identity and technology is enabling the collection of rich datasets about what we eat. Much of this data is created by individual food tracking apps. One app, MyFitnessPal, has over 80 million registered users around the world. What could we learn about the world from this data? How could we use it to improve public health? And, if you are what you eat, what kinds of privacy concerns are raised by our appetite for big data?

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  1. How can we benefit from food diary data without compromising our privacy?
  2. What are the benefits of creating open data sets for a broad variety of researchers to analyze?
  3. How could private companies and government work together to realize public health benefits from food diary data without creating new surveillance?



Alethea Lange, Sr Policy Analyst, Center for Democracy & Technology

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