Andreas Weigend | Social Data Revolution | Fall 2015
School of Information | University of California at Berkeley | INFO 290A-03


Class 6, the final class for this semester. The class schedule divides into 3 section: Presentation by Andreas Weigend, Break-out Session and a closed-door presentation about the mapping of Internet.

Weigend introduces the topic for the class: Spying. In today’s world, there are devices such as RFID tags that can track people. On the other hand, there are devices to counter such tracking device for example a Jammer

Figure 1: Jammer

The Mechanism of Tile

The RFID tag sends Bluetooth signal to the nearby phone and the phone broadcasts to the server which will then update the location of the RFID. As such, one can identify the lost object.

Figure 2: Tile

The Metaphor for Data

Data have been associated to different commodities in today’s information age. However, some associations are poorly defined because of certain characteristics as seen below:

  • Oil
    • o Strength: Data similar to oil are needed in today’s decision making process
    • o Weakness: The scarcity of oil does not go well with the abundance of data. Furthermore, oil loses its value when use but data gain its value when use. For example, merging different data set together can form a coherent picture for analysis.
  • Air
    • Strength: The abundance of air and data

Reflections from Past Homework

First, our attitude towards data differs widely across different nationalities. Take for example, how Europeans see the use of data by big technology company(Google vs Anti-Trust in Europe) and how Chinese government control the social media(The Great Firewall of China). Weigend also brings in interesting insight about how a participant of the Andreessen Horowitz summit will almost always throws a phone every time he finishes his visit in China for fear of spying by the Chinese government.

Secondly, how our attitude towards privacy has changed over the past few weeks of class. One student indicates his fear of less privacy because of the ubiquity of surveillance. On the other hand, majority seems to behave similarly, albeit differently in both private and public setting, with the omnipresence of surveillance. Weigend raises a few interesting points about novel tools in surveillance. For example, 3D camera approximates the height of consumers. Such advancement brings forth A/B testing to brick and mortar stores that only previously Internet retailers such as Amazon enjoy.

Moreover, Weigend highlights important concept about data symmetry, whether there should be equal access to information from both ends of the transaction. Take for example, only airlines can have exclusive access to the conversation but not consumers.

Thirdly, Weigend brings forth a thought experiment: what if data is wrong about you? A student suggests that there is still a traditional channel to rectify this issue such as suing the commenter of the fallacious post in court.

Lastly, Weigend touches briefly about how identity and persona in reality and online world differs. One interesting example raised by a student: you do not necessarily need to meet the age requirement in order to participate in internet forum, word carries more weights than age requirements.

Breakout Session

The second part of the class divides students into 5 different groups: Intelligence, Learning, Health, Work and Cities. Each group is tasked to propose what start-up they would create in these different fields to solve any relevant problem.

Group 1: Intelligence
The group discussed how social media can be utilized to deal with potential security threats to our country through social media. For example, such threats can be tracked using the social data and identified before they develop. Social media can also be used to create campaigns against such threats.

Group 2: Learning
The Learning group proposed to bridge the gap between professors and students because it is not uncommon that professors do not know the minds of students. This may be most valuable for larges classes with a large variation among students. The group proposes a feedback system that informs the professor the status of the students. Are they interested, disengaged, or, confused? Several possible ways to address this problem are discussed. For example, sensors or clickers could be used to read the students' expressions. A live message board could also be used for students to post comments and questions. The professor can then adjust the lecture or course based on the situation. The issue of anonymity was raised, and the group suggested verifying student identity such as linking real personal information to comments or survey responses.

Group 3: Health
The Health group proposed a vibration system attached to the back of the blind people so that it guides them to their destination. They further improvised the idea by including social data, similar to Waze, to guide blind people efficiently to their destination. They also mentioned that they could leverage the technology that self-driving cars/Google Glass use to help blind people monitor their surroundings and the environment around them.

Group 4: Work
The Work group proposed how data can change the workplace, similar to how athlete’s heart beat can influence their training. By keeping track worker’s movement, use of website, companies can measure their worker’s productivity - and specifically tell the workers what time of the day they’re the most/least productive. The team also suggested that profiles could be created for each worker and all the information about a certain worker can be accessed there.

Other Implications - this technology can also be used to track individuals as well as teams and measure the productivity and performance of the teams as well. This could lead to better team formations, and the data about different teams can also help determine what kind of interactions we should be supporting to foster better teams.

Group 5: Cities
The cities group proposed an idea, similar to Next Door, to aid people in determining a neighborhood that closely identify with their interest. However, the group also acknowledges the potential downside of this proposal; racial segregation.

Lastly, Weigend raises the notion of fairness; What is actually fair, does fairness equal to random? CEO of Lufthansa has a designated parking slot in Frankfurt airport. However, this allocation clearly results in under-utilization.


Internet Resources

[1] Tile Official Website, Retrieved from:

[2] Waze, Retrieved from:

[3] Jammer, Retrieved from:

[4] a16z Summit, Retrieved from:

[5] 3D Camera, Retrieved from:

[6] A/B Testing, Retrieved from:

[7] Next Door, Retrieved from:

[8] Lufthansa, Retrieved from:


[1] Image of Tile, Retrieved from:

[2] Image of Jammer, Retrieved from:

Done by Kai, Chiraag, and Andy