Do you ever get that unsettling feeling that someone is watching you? That’s likely because someone is. It’s not a flesh-and-blood stranger lurking in the shadows. No, this set of prying eyes cannot be stopped by a swift kick in the nether-regions or a poke to the retinas. This spy permeates almost every aspect of your life. And it never sleeps.
The culprit that is stalking you is called “Big Data” and it has been sent by the retailers and manufacturers that you frequent.
What is “Big Data?”
Big data is exactly the way it sounds. It is a huge and varied collection of information that is received quickly and often stored in the cloud. It is difficult to sort through, but can be extremely useful in understanding consumer trends and formulating methods to anticipate and meet demand.
Who’s collecting it?
The truth is that most large entities harvest big data. The government and its agencies, insurance companies, automobile manufacturers, and retailers all rely on big data in some form. Here are a few of the corporations that have recently made the news for their participation in collecting consumer data.
In the United Kingdom, this financial institution has begun to peddle data about its approximately 13 million customers. While Barclay’s has warned its clientele of its intentions via a letter campaign, said communications do state that this shared information may “include images of you or recordings of your voice.”
In breaking news, it is reported that the monolithic retailer shares its customer data with over fifty parties. With Walmart’s massive customer base, it is likely that a huge segment of the American population’s information has been passed on to other companies.
The clothier that boasts over 500 brick and mortar stores and internet outlets has experienced a flood of customer information that it has collected, causing them to look for a third party data management team.
This retail giant encountered a huge backlash when it was discovered that its Seattle locations were using Wi-Fi to follow its customers.
These companies represent a mere drop in the proverbial “big data” bucket. And no matter how vigilant you are when it comes to protecting your privacy, you would likely be shocked to learn just how much data is out there about you.
What are the cons?
If everyone is doing it, why should I worry? Not everyone says that you should be concerned about the collection of big data, but those that do offer up several potential worries, not the least of which is the issue of security.
The reality is that you have no control over what third parties will become privy to your private information. While some companies generate revenue through the actually sale of your data, others turn to outside entities with data integration tools to help them manage their data. Your info can potentially wind up in many different hands.
Eye in the sky
Do you really want anyone to be able to anticipate your every move? Your mobile phone, the apps you use, and even your car can be used to generate big data. For instance, automobile manufacturers, in a quest to prevent car accidents, are working on ways to enable cars to communicate with one another. Yes, your movements could wind up in the “cloud,” which, hypothetically could lead to all sorts of problems including identity theft.
What are the pros?
Harvesters of big data claim that they do it to benefit us. For example, retailers state that this information will be used to enhance our shopping experiences. They say that they will be better able to anticipate product demand and ensure that ample supply is on hand, customize special offers to better suit individual buying habits, offer products tailored to unique needs and preferences, and ensure that customer communications are sent via the most suitable method.
It is also said that the collection and synthesizing of big data has created an entirely new industry and a barrage of job openings.
It would appear that Big Data is here to stay and it is gaining more power all of the time. So, what can you do about that discomforting feeling that you’re being watched? Quite simply put–get used to it.
How do you feel about your data being collected and shared?