Liking curly fries might not mean you’re smart: When mere data isn’t enough

Gigaom

You might have heard recently about a study finding that liking “curly fries” on Facebook correlates strongly with high intelligence. Publications such as Wired have written about it. Quid Founder and CEO Sean Gourley cited it during a presentation at Structure: Data last week. A faction of the European Union parliament even pointed to the study as yet another reason to prohibit data mining by web companies.

However, if you’re like me, hearing anybody repeat that curly fries data point as fact likely sends shiver down your spine. It’s not that it’s not true — it very well might be — but that it’s nearly useless information without more background.

That’s right, the old correlation versus causation argument is front and center once again. In all the big data world, it’s probably the biggest fallacy there is, no matter how you look at it. No, getting value from…

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