The Library of Missing Datasets


“”Missing data sets” are the blank spots that exist in spaces that are otherwise data-saturated. Wherever large amounts of data are collected, there are often empty spaces where no data live. The word “missing” is inherently normative. It implies both a lack and an ought: something does not exist, but it should. That which should be somewhere is not in its expected place; an established system is disrupted by distinct absence. That which we ignore reveals more than what we give our attention to. It’s in these things that we find cultural and colloquial hints of what is deemed important. Spots that we’ve left blank reveal our hidden social biases and indifferences.”

“This list will always be incomplete, and is designed to be illustrative rather than comprehensive. It also comes primarily from the perspective of the U.S, though the complete list of datasets features far more international examples.

  • Civilians killed in encounters with police or law enforcement agencies [update: this is no longer a missing dataset]
  • Sales and prices in the art world (and relationships between artists and gallerists)
  • People excluded from public housing because of criminal records
  • Trans people killed or injured in instances of hate crime (note: existing records are notably unreliable or incomplete)
  • Poverty and employment statistics that include people who are behind bars
  • Muslim mosques/communities surveilled by the FBI/CIA
  • Mobility for older adults with physical disabilities or cognitive impairments
  • LGBT older adults discriminated against in housing
  • Undocumented immigrants currently incarcerated and/or underpaid
  • Undocumented immigrants for whom prosecutorial discretion has been used to justify release or general punishment
  • Measurements for global web users that take into account shared devices and VPNs
  • Firm statistics on how often police arrest women for making false rape reports
  • Master database that details if/which Americans are registered to vote in multiple states
  • Total number of local and state police departments using stingray phone trackers (IMSI-catchers)
  • How much Spotify pays each of its artists per play of song”

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