Data Mining: Issues

Issues Presented

One of the key issues raised by data mining technology is not a business or technological one, but a social one. It is the issue of individual privacy. Data mining makes it possible to analyze routine business transactions and glean a significant amount of information about individuals buying habits and preferences.

Another issue is that of data integrity. Clearly, data analysis can only be as good as the data that is being analyzed. A key implementation challenge is integrating conflicting or redundant data from different sources. For example, a bank may maintain credit cards accounts on several different databases. The addresses (or even the names) of a single cardholder may be different in each. Software must translate data from one system to another and select the address most recently entered.

A hotly debated technical issue is whether it is better to set up a relational database structure or a multidimensional one. In a relational structure, data is stored in tables, permitting ad hoc queries. In a multidimensional structure, on the other hand, sets of cubes are arranged in arrays, with subsets created according to category. While multidimensional structures facilitate multidimensional data mining, relational structures thus far have performed better in client/server environments. And, with the explosion of the Internet, the world is becoming one big client/server environment.

Finally, there is the issue of cost. While system hardware costs have dropped dramatically within the past five years, data mining and data warehousing tend to be self-reinforcing. The more powerful the data mining queries, the greater the utility of the information being gleaned from the data, and the greater the pressure to increase the amount of data being collected and maintained, which increases the pressure for faster, more powerful data mining queries. This increases pressure for larger, faster systems, which are more expensive.

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