Big data. It’s all anyone talks about, nowadays. Just look at the majority of Professor Wyner’s t-shirts – one of them even says “I like Big Data and I Cannot Lie.” (s/o to Prof Wyner for his cool t-shirts.) The importance of analyzing data comes from the fact that there is just so much of it being generated on a daily basis. From the influence of smartphones and online usage, vast amounts of data have been able to be generated. Even more important to note is how recent the explosion of data is: roughly 90% of the worlds total amount of data has been generated in the past two years, and the world collectively outputs 2.5 quintillion bytes of data PER DAY. It is estimated that the world will generate over 40 zetabytes of data by 2020. Thats a lot of data! The unprecedented massive influx of data coupled with an increased importance on the ability to interpret, analyze, and know just what the data can be used for has created a Big Bang of sorts surrounding data analytics. Companies have been on the hunt to capture data, bringing to light a lot of questions about what data people are comfortable sharing and whether or not privacy exists in todays digital world.
The chart above shows a little snippet of just how frequently huge amounts of data are created. For example, over 3.5 million searches are conducted on Google every minute. Every search generates new data that can be used to better understand the specific consumer doing the googling. With such an abundance of data that is constantly generated, successful collection, analysis, and utilization of such large amounts of data can really make or break a company. Two companies that stand out in the rush for data are Google and Facebook. With such a dominant presence in the online lives of individuals, Facebook and Google both have a huge amount of access to data that they frequently use for the monetization of their platforms. The amount of data that Facebook and Google consistently generate is coming from the huge user base – billions of users – that contribute to their sites. A huge part of the competitive advantage of Facebook and Google is how much data they have on their users, and their ability to use that data to monetize their platform through targeted advertising.
Because of the value of data, there has been some backlash about exactly how and when Google or Facebook collects data. Recently, there has been talk about Google’s phone “OnePlus” where users noticed excessive and invasive data collection: User outcry prompts OnePlus to step down its excessive data collection (https://techcrunch.com/2017/10/15/user-outcry-prompts-oneplus-to-step-down-its-excessive-data-collection/)
Essentially, Google was getting location data every time the phone was woken up and put to sleep – collecting data from the phone consistently in unprecedented ways that, once users found it was happening, made many people uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, in fact, that Google ceased the invasive data collection. What I find especially interesting about this case is that it took a random experiment performed by a OnePlus user to find that so much data was being sent to Google without the user knowing.
The lack of knowledge of exactly what data, and how much of it, we are giving these huge companies borders on the “creepy-cool” line that we touch on so frequently. Because of the known importance of data, it wouldn’t surprise me if even more scenarios of invasive data collection are taking place unbeknownst to us.
With this question in mind, I researched the topic of where our data is going and who has it. I cam across another TechCrunch article “You might be surprised to learn who’s collecting your data.” In the article, it states that according to Pew research, more than 90 percent of adults agree that consumers have lost control of how their data is collected and shared online by companies. People have accepted the fact that privacy is either impossible or not feasible to achieve. The level of comfort that people have with huge companies having access, and further sharing, their own data has grown. There seems to be a divide in how people react to their data being shared. Even through our discussions in class, there seems to be a divide in which some of us believe that sharing our data is part of what it costs to maintain the growth of industries and continuing to improve our quality of life provided by the companies that use our data while others find it incredibly disconcerting to think that their own personal data is being shared by companies without their knowledge for the sake of monetization.
The reality of the world we live in is that data is incredibly important for so many companies that we use in our every day lives. However, I believe the most important question we have to ask is whether or not the tradeoff between privacy and convenience is a decision we are able to make.