Data Blog #5. Big Data, Small World

Your personal data is worth something. You probably already know that, but do you know how much exactly? The European Commission expects the total value of personal data of all EU citizens to be worth €1 trillion per year by 2020. How is this possible? What kind of data do companies store, and what do they use it for?

Big Data refers to the massive bulk of raw, unprocessed information from machines, sensors and yes, also from people. This personal information can be anything from your facebook profile picture to your bank details. Pretty much every website you visit tracks your browsing behavior using cookies. You change your facebook status to ‘engaged’? You’re bound to be a target for any ad relating to weddings. Your bank card, public transport card and passport; they all contain RFID tags (Radio Frequency Identification) that transfer information about you to other sources. All this data is subsequently stored in data centers. In 2014 the centers in which companies store this data were able to fill up to 6,000 football fields, and it has been growing exponentially since then.

How is this raw and unprocessed data turned into something that can be worth such an awful lot of money? By means of data mining companies, banks, health care providers and many other parties are able to analyze the Big Data mesh and transform it into something that is relevant and valuable to them. Datamining refers to the categorization and automatic processing and analyzing of this Big Data. Many tools have been developed to turn this big, chaotic mesh into clear and useful patterns reflecting people’s behavior, needs, risks and much, much more. A friend of mine wrote her bachelor’s thesis on Big Data. She told me that holiday booking website could, in essence, provide people with their first choice without them actively searching for it. However, expecting that people might be a little ‘freaked out’  by this (we like to believe we make our choices ourselves) they have changed their algorithms to provide you with a multitude of search results, with your first choice hidden somewhere at the top.

Many types of businesses, institutions and other organizations make use of Big Data and Data Mining. It is especially effective with regards to marketing, manufacturing operations and building relationships with customers. However, banks also use it to detect ‘odd’ spending behavior of their customers. Even the police use Big Data; they are able to predict where a crime will take place, before it even happens. Alongside the various opportunities and benefits Big Data provides, there is also a shadow side; what happens if this information is breached? How do companies deal with this and what are the personal and legal consequences? This is something I will discuss in the next blog.
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Does S2M use Big Data? How, and for what purposes? As with any tech-business, we do use Big Data. On the one hand we receive the information you provide in your user profile, such as your knowledge, skills and interests. On the other hand we extrapolate information from your check-ins and connections, but also the topic that are trending in locations, the number of connections people make and other things that are relevant to us. Based on this we are able to provide you with relevant recommendation on who to connect with, as well as content for the magazine that would be relevant for you to read. We also use it in other areas, check out this blog by Vincent Ariëns to get some more info and perhaps you can use it for your business as well!