Porn or Data Privacy? You Choose!

Blog Header Banner (10)It’s no secret that Big Data = Big Money and as the data mining trend continues to prove its value, businesses are using more lucrative methods of collection than ever before. By 2025 (less than 10 years away) there will be over 100 billion internet connected devices and you should be able to buy a computer for about $1,000 that operates at the same speed as a human brain (10,000 trillion cycles per second).

This hyper-connectivity is a real thing and data privacy is always a question on consumers lips. You may have read about the questionable privacy policy for PokomonGo recently. The realm of physical, virtual and emotional space is entering a space we’ve never experienced before. It’s very exciting, but what should we do? Privacy issues aren’t going to go away, so do we all switch our browsers to incognito, delete apps and go hide under a rock? Or do we embrace the trend and take smart steps to ensure our privacy?

Ok, so going incognito would be the easiest option, but not the smartest! Yes, privacy matters but so does our user-experience on the web and if we choose to go un-trackable then we will revert back to internet 1.0 where websites were connected by hyperlinks, we didn’t have search engines and all advertisements were for porn sites or casinos (i bet you were wondering where porn would come into this!). Now we couldn’t do that could we? I for one couldn’t live without Google!

The other solution is to take the time to know where and when we are being tracked and be smart about our privacy and how much data we are giving away!

Today you will learn: 

  • The definition of big data and how it enhances your user experience
  • The different methods of data collection and where we should take precautions
  • How companies capitalise on your data
  • 5 uses for Big Data

When I mention ‘big data’ I’m not talking about your bank details or passwords. ‘Big data’ is extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and associations in our behaviour online. Seems pretty invaluable to us but for marketers this information is gold!

Every time you visit a site, type into a search bar, like or comment on Facebook, send an email, look at a product, Snapchat someone, check in at a location or use a mobile app your data is collected for future use. Your digital behaviour is almost like a tattoo. You’re probably very aware of this, it’s all collected to enhance your experience. It’s this data that businesses get to know their customers and their consumer habits. But, how far is too far when it comes to the use of the data collected?

When marketers and advertisers are capable of gaining access to our day to day digital interactions they are able to curate a marketing strategy so personalised and targeted that it can come across as just damn creepy! Today we are going to pull apart the methods of collection of big data and the ethical issues concerned.

Collection

Before the internet the marketers would reach their target audience by showing their ads on TV or radio at certain times in the day, publishing in newspapers or magazines commonly read by the audience or designing billboards for them to drive past. Nowadays, the capabilities of data collection to personalise marketing are mind-blowing and awesome. But just because a business can collect this data doesn’t necessarily mean they should. There are many privacy pitfalls that come into play when collecting and handling big data and it’s important these are taken into consideration. ‘How do they get this data?’ Well, you gave it to them.

Search engines

There are 3.5 billion searches on Google each day! Yep, that’s 3.5 billion times that Google will process and store your search query, in the form of ‘cookies’. Google and other search engines are a great way of tracking behaviour because they’re able to build a consumer profile that analyses your habits and interests through your most visited sites. This isn’t an issue until you look at the fact everyone has typed something embarrassing into Google! We don’t use the internet solely for consumer activities and our search history can reveal many highly personal aspects of our life including financial issues, physical or mental illness and marital issues. If you don’t wish to be tracked you could always use an incognito –  but concealment isn’t always the answer.

Money Blog News | Google Main Search | 12.10.2010 | Flickr

Money Blog News | Google Main Search | 12.10.2010 | Flickr

Speaking at Customer Focus Live in London, Google’s chief geospatial technologist Ed Parsons spoke of the growing trend of personalisation in user experience.  As a consumer there’s so much information available to us online that we need Google to help us to navigate and digest the information. When speaking about Google’s data use Parsons quotes;

“On the internet the question is, ‘Do I get the result I expect from the service I’m using?’ By bringing together data from different services, Google can achieve this. Trust, transparency and technology delivers magic,” says Parsons.

Yes, we could reject data tracking but this would make it a lot harder for Google and other domains to improve and enhance our online experience.

App Permissions

You would be surprised by how much personal information you are signing over when you accept app permissions. Every time you install an application onto your phone, you’re asked to allow certain permissions such as; to use your camera, track your location, view your contacts, and more. While in most circumstances these permissions are necessary for the app to function some apps take advantage, gathering and exploiting data.

If you can not match up the requested permission with a function in the app then you should be mindful. There are also apps that will ask you to log in through a private account such as Facebook or Google+ and by doing so you could give them access information stored in the accounts. For example, Minnesota Senator Al Franken has raised concerns about the new Pokemon Go game, downloaded over 7.5 million times already, quoting:

I am concerned about the extent to which Niantic (the games developer) may be unnecessarily collecting, using, and sharing a wide range of users’ personal information without their appropriate consent,” said Franken.

Third-party use

Third-party data is the collection of customer insights that you acquire through a public source or a data broker. According to Forrester Research, U.S. companies spend more than $2 billion annually to access consumer data. Big data, big money!

Public data

Public data is data that anyone can acquire and is generally free of cost. This includes public records such as the electoral roll and phone books but it also includes information available on online profiles like interests listed on your Facebook profile, public events attended, Twitter hashtags you interact with and what organisation you work for on your LinkedIn profile. The availability of this information depends on the user’s privacy settings and is much harder to collect and organise than ‘big data’.

Data Brokers 

There are plenty of companies offering data to the market. They do so by segmenting users that have been cookied, based on browsing history or other data and selling this to a company of relevance. Data brokers typically work with other companies to analyse how websites are used. For example, they can gauge a person’s interest in current affairs based on how many news sites they visit per week. There’s also the more sinister methods such as pop culture quizzes or questionnaires like ‘What Pulp Fiction Character are you?’ What many users don’t realise is these quizzes are often asking segmenting questions such as age range, interests and location that can be used by data brokers to create a profile of you and sell this to a company.


There’s many arguments that could be had about data privacy, such as the regulation of data gathering as discussed in the Dark Side of Big Data. Even the words ‘big data’ sound scary! But it isn’t something that should send us cowering under a rock. I’m not going to make the final decision on whether data collection is good or bad, that is highly dependent on how much data you are actually offering while browsing online. What I will say is that data allows us to move further into the era of personalisation and enhance our experience on the web.

5 Positive Data Uses

  1. Big Data Exploration – Large organisations are able to store and integrate data sets to improve the way their business work. When big data is extracted and managed correctly it can be unified to best serve the customer and ensure the data is kept safe.
  2. Understanding Your Customer – Collecting data is the closest a marketer will get to being able to read a customer’s mind. By better understanding what makes your customers tick, how they prefer to shop, what they buy and why they switch brands a marketer can personalise the shopping experience for them.
  3. Cyber Security – we all want to be secure online and by giving away data you can actually increase security. For example, a bank can detect when a person uses your details to make a payment overseas and will cancel your card or notify you accordingly.
  4. Operations Analysis – big data can be used for performance reviews of operational businesses such as measuring efficiency of workers, how mechanical time delays are affecting productivity or even looking at what times customers are most likely to make a purchase. This allows you to enhance your operational capabilities and optimise your business on and offline.
  5. Data Warehouse Modernisation – a data warehouse allows a business to increase speed, scale and productivity. A data warehouse allows you to take all the data stored from you operational systems and convert this into a usable database that helps make informed decisions.

Big Data has been called the next frontier in innovation, productivity and competition! The collection of data predicted to grow at exponential rates in years to come and businesses will continue to utilise this data to adapt and accommodate for the changing digital environment. If we can better understand the needs and wants of the wider population by analysing their behaviour online, is data collection really evil?

 

Let us know what you think in the comments, is it an invasion of privacy or a necessary step in the evolution of our internet experience?

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