“If you are childless, shop for clothing online, spend a lot on cable TV, and drive a minivan, data brokers are probably going to assume you’re heavier than average. We know that drug companies may use that data to recruit research subjects. Marketers could utilize the data to target ads for diet aids, or for types of food that research reveals to be particularly favored by people who are childless, shop for clothing online, spend a lot on cable TV, and drive a minivan. We may also reasonably assume that the data can be put to darker purposes: for example to offer credit on worse terms to the obese (stereotype-driven assessment of looks and abilities reigns from Silicon Valley to experimental labs). And perhaps someday it will be put to higher purposes: for example, identifying ‘obesity clusters’ that might be linked to overexposure to some contaminant.” University of Maryland Law Professor Frank Pasquale, blogging about whether public policy should incentivize the use of big data for innovation rather than discrimination.

Concurring Opinions, March 24, 2014.