Video, PodcastMarch 4 2020

Abolish Big Data

Yeshimabeit Milner

Databite No. 129

This talk by Yeshimabeit Milner, founder and executive director of Data for Black Lives, serves as a call to action to reject the concentration of Big Data in the hands of a few, to challenge the structures that allow data to be wielded as a weapon of immense political influence. To abolish Big Data would mean to put data in the hands of people who need it the most.



Big Data is more than a collection of technologies or a revolution in measurement and prediction. It has become a philosophy; an ideological regime that determines how decisions are made, and who makes them. It gives legitimacy to a new form of social and political control that takes the digital traces of our existence and then finds ways to use them to sort and manage populations. Big Data is part of a long and pervasive historical legacy of scientific oppression, aggressive public policy, and the most influential political and economic institution that has shaped and continues to shape this country’s economy: chattel slavery. Algorithms and other data technologies are the engines that facilitate the ongoing evolution of chattel slavery into the Prison Industrial Complex, justify the militarization of schoolyards and borders alike, and continued the expansion of contemporary practices of peonage.

Data & Society Executive Director Janet Haven hosts this talk.

Yeshimabeit Milner is the Founder & Executive Director of Data for Black Lives. She has worked since she was 17 behind the scenes as a movement builder, technologist and data scientist on a number of campaigns. She started Data for Black Lives because for too long she straddled the worlds of data and organizing and was determined to break down the silos to harness the power of data to make change in the lives of Black people. In two years, Data for Black Lives has raised over $2 million, hosted two sold out conferences at the MIT Media Lab and has changed the conversation around big data & technology across the US and globally.

As the founder of Data for Black Lives, her work has received much acclaim. Yeshimabeit is an Echoing Green Black Male Achievement Fellow, an Ashoka Fellow and joins the founders of Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street in the distinguished inaugural class of Roddenberry Foundation Fellows and most recently, was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30.

About Databites

Data & Society’s “Databites” speaker series presents timely conversations about the purpose and power of technology, bridging our interdisciplinary research with broader public conversations about the societal implications of data and automation.