Where Not to Eat? Improving Public Policy by Predicting Hygiene Inspections Using Online Reviews
Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (Forthcoming)
Posted: 13 Jul 2013 Last revised: 26 Sep 2013
Date Written: September 26, 2013
This paper offers an approach for governments to harness the information contained in social media in order to make public inspections and disclosure more efficient. As a case study, we turn to restaurant hygiene inspections – which are done for restaurants throughout the United States and in most of the world and are a frequently cited example of public inspections and disclosure. We present the first empirical study that shows the viability of statistical models that learn the mapping between textual signals in restaurant reviews and the hygiene inspection records from the Department of Public Health. The learned model achieves over 82% accuracy in discriminating severe offenders from places with no violation, and provides insights into salient cues in reviews that are indicative of the restaurant’s sanitary conditions. Our study suggests that public disclosure policy can be improved by mining public opinions from social media to target inspections and to provide alternative forms of disclosure to customers.
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