Why what big data knows about you is not scary

An article about 21 scary things that big data knows about each and every one of us RIGHT NOW caught my eye this week, but I didn’t find it as creepy as the author did – in fact all I could see were the possibilities.

The article, as you would expect, goes on to list all of the ways we’re leaking data constantly in our everyday lives, some obvious, some not so well known.

So while most people are aware that Google knows what they’ve searched for, they may not be so aware that the search giant has also assigned each of us an age and gender, based on those searches and other tracking. (As previously discussed, this is over the creep line of what is acceptable for most people, and is certainly one of the factors behind the millions of people who’ve installed ad-blocking devices on their computers.)

Facebook, on the other hand, has a pretty good idea of how healthy or otherwise your relationship is -as well as how intelligent you are, and how satisfied with life.

Those cat pictures you’ve uploaded to the internet mean, thanks to geo-tagging, that anyone who wants to can work out where you live, while your phone also knows where you live and work.

Author Bernard Marr concludes by saying: “This is actually just the tip of the iceberg. As we dive deeper into the benefits big data can provide to us, we’ll also be happily coughing up more and more data. The iPhone Health app, for instance, can collect data about all kinds of intimately personal things about your health.

“It’s up to us, as consumers, to be aware of what we’re giving away, when, and to whom.”

Well, yes – awareness is one thing, but it’s also unarguable that using free and ubiquitous services like Google and Facebook, which are so involved and important to our lives these days, is impossible without handing data over.

But I’m digressing slightly, because my main reaction when I read that list was simply wow. Amazing. What great things technology can do these days.

If it’s creepy at all, it’s because all that information about me, and you, and everybody else is collected externally by hundreds of different companies, and we can’t access it or use it for ourselves in any meaningful way.

But the data itself? The insights it gives into my life, thoughts, interests and purchases? That’s fascinating and insightful – and if all in one place would give me a unique picture of both who I am and what I show to the world.

So it’s not the data that’s creepy, it’s how it’s taken and where it ends up. So that data, under your control in your digi.me app, would be a thing of beauty and wonder – and it’s not just a pipe dream, it’s a working reality that is coming soon!

 

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