An Investigation of California Kindergarten Immunization Data (2000–2015)

My colleague Allison Godfrey and I completed a study of kindergarten immunizations in California in the spring of 2020. It was just a few weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic had begun to have widespread impact in the US, and many months before the first COVID-19 vaccine became available in December 2020. We didn’t know then if there would ever be a COVID-19 vaccine, and like so many others, I hoped that strict lockdown and constant handwashing would end the pandemic long before vaccination became necessary. …

Data for Change

Using Machine Learning to Understand Election Interference

By Laura Pintos, Ramiro Cadavid, and Anna Jacobson

Image via Shutterstock (obtained with Standard License)

Part I | Introduction


In February 2019, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, the United States Department of Justice charged 13 Russian nationals with illegally meddling in American political processes. The defendants worked for a well-funded, Russian state-backed “troll factory” called the Internet Research Agency (IRA), which reportedly had 400 employees (known as “trolls”) working 12-hour shifts in a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg. …

Delivered at the Women in Construction USA Conference in San Francisco, CA (September 18, 2019)


I started my career in construction management 19 years ago. It’s often hard for me to believe that it has been so long — I still feel very young! However, something that reminds me of how long it has been — in a good way — is that these days I find myself asked to coffee or lunch quite often to provide career advice. Over the years, as my thinking about my own career has evolved and deepened, I hope that the quality of advice…

The Changing Terms of the Value Exchange

By Anna Jacobson, Hanna Rocks, and Jay Venkata

For the first century of the United States’ history, formalized consumer protection did not exist; caveat emptor — “let the buyer beware” — was the operative principle of the marketplace. However, as the US economy became more established and prosperous, consumer protection slowly became enacted through the legal system, starting with the antitrust and anti-monopoly laws passed at the turn of the 20th century, which for the first time protected consumers from victimization from unethical pricing, exploitation of markets, and violation of constitutionality. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy spoke to Congress…

Privacy: The Consumer Perspective

By Anna Jacobson, Hanna Rocks, and Jay Venkata

From a consumer’s perspective, privacy harms represent the most tangible dimension of privacy (one could argue that privacy does not even exist without the threat of violation). The risk of these potential harms can only be mitigated by the perceived value of the products and services received in exchange. However, while the positive side of this value exchange is well-understood by consumers, the negative side is not always.

Privacy Harms

For any product in which users provide personal information such as names, passwords, email addresses and birthdates, a data breach carries the risk of…

Privacy: The Business Perspective

By Anna Jacobson, Hanna Rocks, and Jay Venkata

A business’s perspective on the value exchange it has created is often expressed through their approach to privacy policies and privacy risks. A third approach, their internal security strategy, is relevant but not available for external analysis for obvious reasons. In addition to reviewing the privacy policies and risks, a survey targeting product managers and user experience specialists helped in obtaining the business lens of improving customer experience and providing customized product offerings.

Privacy Policies

Social Media: Instagram

In signing up for Instagram, the service’s users agree to its three policies: Terms of Use, Data Policy, and…

Defining the Terms of the Value Exchange

By Anna Jacobson, Hanna Rocks, and Jay Venkata

In today’s media-saturated world, competition for the attention and loyalty of consumers is unprecedented. The digital age has brought new challenges for companies, but it has also created opportunities for new and creative ways of reaching and engaging customers. Carefully designed user experiences have been a very important driver for companies to target, interact with and attract consumers. However, while consumers value the incredible increase in products and services now available at the click of a button, they are often unaware of how companies are able to identify and collect their personal…

5%-10% of breast cancer is believed to be hereditary, meaning that it results directly from a genetic mutation passed on from a parent. The most common known cause of hereditary breast cancer is an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene; about 70% of women with these mutations will develop breast cancer before the age of 80. Identification of these mutations can determine a breast cancer patient’s course of treatment and post-treatment monitoring, inform decisions about if and how she has children, and raise awareness in her family members of their potentially higher risk.

Because of this, newly diagnosed…

Of all of the exciting work taking place in the field of data science, the machine learning algorithm (MLA) is one of the technological advancements that has garnered the most attention — and, to many, it is the area of data science that holds the most promise for the future. However, as with all powerful technologies, MLAs also carry the risk of becoming destructive forces in the world. In the words of Paul Virilio, a French cultural theorist who has written extensively about technology:

“When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck; when you invent the plane you…

Lessons from Google Cloud’s Visualize 2030 Data Challenge

Last fall, I entered a competition called Visualize 2030 hosted by Google Cloud in collaboration with the World Bank, the UN, and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. They called it a data storytelling contest, and the object was to create a data-driven narrative based on the 2030 Agenda.

The 2030 Agenda is an initiative that was launched by a United Nations Summit in 2015. Its intent is to define a framework of what they call Sustainable Development Goals — or SDGs — to make the world a better place by 2030. …

Anna Jacobson

UC Berkeley School of Information MIDS 2020

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