The Dark Side Of Big Data


The Internet has been liberating for mankind. We connect with our loved ones across the globe in a flash. We can shop from the comfort of our couch in the middle of the night, meet new people, learn new things, read heartwarming enlightening stories of everyday hero’s and if you’re lucky you’ve probably had a experience over the internet that has changed your life. Whilst the use of the internet for civilians has transformed the way we learn and connect with each other, there is a grey area that needs to be brought to our conscious attention. Where does all this data go and what’s really happening with it and who on earth regulates it? The truth is, no one regulates how our data is used or manipulated. Of course SPAM legislation exists to prevent out data being sold but what about the use of our data to predict our lives?

As a person who is heavily involved in evolution of data for improved business results, the availability your interactions online free for businesses to use would astound you. When I tell people what I do and what I have access to the reaction usually is, “whoa you can find that out? umm thats a bit Big Brotherish isn’t it?” This data of course is kept privately and anonymously, not to be sold or shared with anyone else outside of it’s intended purpose, however in the past few days things have changed here in Australia and in the UK.

At this stage we should all be well aware the interactions we have on our phones and computers gets stored somewhere, right? It doesn’t just float around in cyberspace for all eternity. Whether it be our Facebook updates, Email’s, SMS, what you search for in google, websites you visit, everything we do gets stored somewhere, in some database, separately from other data sources because all interaction records are owned by separate companies. But what if that somewhere wasn’t anonymous anymore and the government could get access to it without reason, without regulation, how would you feel? Just imagine, everything you do, being tracking like you where a suspected criminal?

This week the Australian government passed a new law which will allow them to store all our digital data for “critical” anti terrorism efforts in a centralised database. Up until now our data has been stored separately and privately. Imagine every email & subject line, phone conversation, our where abouts, text’s & its contents, Facebook status update, what you search in google, photo with times, locations and dates being sent to the government for them to do with it as they wish. No one is regulating what they can and can’t do with our information.

You’re probably thinking if you’re not doing anything wrong or illegal why should I care, right?

So here lies the problem. It’s in the science behind data and how a central source can help to persuade the outcome critical world events through manipulation of our media consumption. You might remember Facebooks recent “behavioural experiment”.  They selected around 700,000 profiles, split them down the middle, half got only happy information and the other got sad and disturbing information into their news feeds. The idea was to see whether the information we receive would alter our behaviours. Well guess what it did change! The people whom were receiving only sad information started to show signs of depression within their own posts. The result of this experiment was Facebook was able to prove that by altering our media consumption or version of reality was very different.

As there is no one to regulate how they use our data there is nothing stopping anyone from building algorithms to use our information to their advantage (just like Facebook did). This should be a rising concern with the up and coming IP TV.

So what can we do to make sure we don’t fall victim to media manipulation of a grand scale? Well there is the obvious, get off your mobile and computer devices… Live under a tree and change your name to Moonbeam. But because this isn’t realistic let’s think of something else…. It’s wildly important to do our best to consume our media in an educational format. What do you believe in? What do you want to learn about? What is it that you stand for and believe in? Feed your passion and avoid controversial gossip hearsay information. The power has to be in our hands and now more than ever it’s important to stand up for what we believe in.

Tell me, what do you think about this critical anti terrorism movement? Is it a load of BS? Please share with me your two cents and comment below. Remember sharing is caring! The more we learn, the more aware we are the better off we all are for the collective empowerment of mankind.

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