In this post, we turn to big data. Specifically, we’ll give you a brief overview of data collection and data selling technology today. We’ll address the following questions:
- What is big data?
- How does it affect your personal information?
- Why and how do companies collect big data?
So if you want to know why companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook think data is more valuable than oil, you’ll find the answer here. Let’s begin.
What is big data?
Big data describes large volumes of data (or data sets) that are so huge and complex (and continue growing exponentially over time) it’s impossible to manage or process them using traditional software.
Typically, these data sets contain publicly available or privately permitted information about human behaviors and interactions online.
When the data is processed, it can generate statistics which identify patterns and trends among those activities.
What is publicly available personal information?
Publicly available data refers to information about a person that is disclosed to the public. But this isn’t always the case.
Data privacy remains an open topic since many .com companies regularly capture information without consent.
For example, Facebook had to pay a record $5 billion to settle a privacy concerns case in 2019.
These events and others like it have prompted nations and international organizations to create laws that protect personal data.
One such legislature is the EU General Data Protection Regulation. In this document, we can find the answer to the main question of this paragraph.
And according to the GDPR, personal information is publicly available:
- If it’s contained in official documents of public interest, or related to public officials;
- If it contains the source of the personal data with permission for public disclosure.
What kind of data collection is there?
Currently, there are three types of big data:
- Structured: formatted data that can be stored, accessed, and processed.
- Unstructured: complex (and usually huge) data sets without form or structure.
- Semi-structured: data sets with a structured form that is unintelligible through that structure.
Why do companies collect data?
As a consumer, you may ask yourself: what are companies doing with my data?
Usually, companies capture data for one of two reasons.
The first has to do with user behavior analytics. Businesses want to get a deeper level of insight into how consumers interact with their brand, marketing, products, and services.
Companies will use a statistical representation of this behavior to align their sales and marketing strategies. The goal here is to use big data to persuade consumers to interact with this company instead of its competitors.
The second reason companies use data is to create future forecasts, so they can uncover risks, trends, and new market opportunities. This is called predictive analytics.
Predictive analytics relies on several statistical techniques such as predictive modelling and machine learning. Companies use these solutions to extract value from present data and align it with their future business goals.
How to collect big data?
Companies can collect data in many ways and from many sources. Some capturing methods are technical, for example, website cookies. Others are more deductive, like Google Analytics.
That said, there are three ways companies can collect data:
- By directly asking users to provide data
- By indirectly tracking user behavior
- By sourcing data from third parties
The most obvious way businesses collect data is through interaction with their websites.
Here, companies typically deploy all three strategies that we’ve listed.
For example, companies can use gated content to capture email addresses with user permission, or third-party software to create website heatmaps that track cursor movement on a web page.
Here are a few other big data collection methods:
- Loyalty cards (retail and e-commerce websites)
- Browser games (World of Tanks, Words with Friends)
- Online gameplay (Fortnite, League of Legends)
- Satellite imagery (Google Earth, Google Maps)
- Employer databases (HR and headhunter databanks)
- Popular email services (Gmail, Yahoo Mail)
- Social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram)
- Ratings and feedback (online surveys, Google reviews)
Note: Companies tend to use managed services to protect their technology systems when capturing data.
Besides collecting information for business use, it’s common to see companies trade data either via data marketplaces or consumer data vendors.
Data Selling Technology
Personal data and big data are routinely bought and sold by companies. Data brokers are those who facilitate these deals.
The brokerage of data includes:
- People search (Spokeo, ZoomInfo, White Pages, PeopleSmart)
- Credit reporting (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion)
- Advertising and marketing (Acxiom, Oracle, Innovis, KBM)
- Political consultancy (Cambridge Analytica)
- Risk mitigation
Before monetizing the data, data brokers use advanced technology to acquire, store, access, and process big data sets.
For example, data brokers typically use large private clouds to store these data sets. They can then use a combination of AI and machine learning to process the data to extract value and meaning for their customers.
What is the future of data collection?
Big data is here to stay. Companies will continue capturing data and using it to understand consumers and make predictions about future markets.
We’re still unsure how new privacy laws will affect big data. Or which new technologies will emerge to simplify data processing. All you can really do is stay informed.