The Development of a Web‐based Demographic Data Extraction Tool for Population Monitoring

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The Internet contains a great wealth of information available online. People search engines, such as WhitePages (), gather personal‐level demographic data, including full name, address, age and household members. Requiring only a surname and locational reference (e.g. city or postal code) as the minimum search criteria, such people search engines can be perceived as a gigantic database of demographic records. The objective of this article is to outline the development of a web‐based demographic data extraction tool for population monitoring. In this study, a web prototype was developed to extract web demographics of the Vietnamese‐American (VA) population in Texas, an ethnic minority with unique migration history, from WhitePages. After post‐processing, the personal‐level demographic data represent 40.3% of 202,003 VA in Texas reported by the American Community Survey (ACS) 2009. While all enumeration strategies, the web approach included, have their own strengths and weaknesses, this study suggests an alternative approach that is complementary to existing enumeration strategies. More research and development are needed to validate the accuracy of web demographics and further enhance data navigation and extraction rules. The utilization and release of web demographics must be cautious with regards to privacy and integrity of personal identity.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Texas Center for Geographic Information Science, Department of Geography, Texas State University 2: Verizon Data Service, Inc. Irving, TX 75038

Publication date: August 1, 2011

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