Reposted from Medium.
If you follow the Guardian or the New York Times, or any major news network, you are likely to have noticed that a company called Cambridge Analytica have been in the headlines a lot.
The basic story as reported is as follows:
A shady UK data analytics company, with the help of a 24 year old tech genius developed an innovative technique to ‘hack’ facebook and steal 50 million user profiles. Then they used this data to help the Trump and Brexit campaigns psychologically manipulate voters through targeted ads. The result was Vote Leave ‘won’ the UK’s Brexit referendum and Trump was elected president in the US.
Unfortunately, almost everything in the above summary is false or misleading.
... although this form of acupuncture may carry slightly greater health risks.
So while killing time on facebook researching new science articles I came across this short Guardian article containing a startling headline announcing that:
“Dozens killed by incorrectly placed acupuncture needles”
But before I could begin hunting for news stories about the recent activity of an acupuncture themed serial killer the sub heading informed me that a “survey reveals punctured hearts and lungs among causes of death over past 45 years”. Despite my general lack of statistical competence even I can work out that ‘dozens’ of deaths across more than four decades does not work out as a particularly scary statistic and certainly not one that warrants such a sensationalist headline. In fact as the first paragraph of the article explains the total recorded deaths numbers 86 over 45 years which works out as an average of around 2 deaths a year.
What makes this figure even less impressive is that the number was obtained from worldwide reports including those from Japan and China. Two deaths a year from a treatment that is performed on millions of people, multiple times every year is really not something which people should worry about. Winning the lottery would appear to be more likely than dying from a botched acupuncture treatment.