Professor Ransbotham’s class on data analytics two weeks ago left me with a great amount to think about. ‘Big Data’ has been a buzzword for the past few years, however it is only recently that I’ve began to understand the implications of it. Data Scientists are constantly improving their analytical methods and the granularity of the ‘Big Data’ is increasing very rapidly. The implications of this are massive. Previously there was plenty of data out there but its utilization was marginal at best. Through these improvements, companies and even people have the ability to gather large amounts of personal information from a small slice of data. Thus leaving you with a ‘digital tattoo’, you never asked for.
After watching Alessandro Acquisti’s TED Talk What Will The Future Look Like Without Secrets? for class, I stumbled upon Juan Enriquez’s equally insightful talk Your Life Online, Permanent as a Tattoo. In a similar vein to Acquisti’s talk, Enriquez discusses the concepts of anonymity and privacy in the 21st century. He compares the data amassed through social media from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. to a ‘digital tattoo’. Like a normal ink tattoo, these ‘digital tattoos’ tell a great story and speak for themselves.
According to a Harris Poll, only 21% of Americans have one or more tattoos which indicate that the majority of the population (79%) choose not to ink themselves. Even if you were to abstain from using social media, your digital tattoo may still exist. While smaller, it may still exist through other people’s content. For example, Your friend may upload a picture to Social Media with you in it, in 2015 it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible to not have a digital tattoo.
Enriquez takes the spin on Andy Warhol’s famous words, “ In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” and claims that in today’s world “In the future, everyone will only be anonymous for 15 minutes”. The digital tattoos that we build up are the closest to immortality that humans will reach in this century and this is a very troubling idea. Enriquez emphasizes that our ‘tattoos’ will live on for much longer than we ever will, and therefore must be extraordinarily prudent with what one posts, shares and likes.
However, no matter how careful one is on social media, the advances in facial recognition technology and predictive modeling tools may make careful judgement may no longer act as a guard to personal information. In 2012, Facebook acquired Face.com which is a facial recognition tool and as of 2011 it had gathered data for billions of faces across Facebook and face.com platforms. Applications such as FaceDeals.com also leverage facial recognition technology to personalize retail sales and deals for individual customers and notifies consumers of products they might find interesting when they enter the store. The commercial applications of facial recognition software is a real concept that will be utilized in the coming years. The capability of identifying someone and immediately download their records which include their gender, age, race and personality traits is too lucrative of a business model to be ignored and not developed.
Stanford University recently published an article that spoke of a similar concept from the Curly Fry Conundrum TED talk we discussed in class. Like Golbeck’s talk, the article touches upon the idea that a Facebook Like provides much more information about the user than at face value. For example, the pattern of your likes and activity on Facebook could determine whether or not your parents were divorced. Dong argues that Facebook and other social media platforms actually convey a truer version of a person than what someone may reveal in a face to face interview or coffee date. She suggests that it is easier to put on a facade for a thirty minute interaction than to monitor and control your appearance on years of Facebook posts and history.
I thought I would put this theory to the test, to see how accurate my ‘digital tattoos’ were. Using the website www.applymagicsauce.com , a tool published by the University of Cambridge, I was able to see how much my ‘likes’ on Facebook divulged about my personality and life.
Below are the results. They aren’t completely accurate, for example I’m 21 and the modeling tool suggested I was 26.
Overall, it didn’t do a horrible job however, there is still much to be improved in terms of accuracy and descriptiveness. Nevertheless, in the coming years these tools will not doubt be modified and improved dramatically and I whether was planning to or not will be covered in a ‘tattoos’.