You might have heard of the term “Big Data”, but it’s not always clear what it really means. While it might seem quite distant and abstract, it actually describes something that can influence almost every aspect of your life from the work you do to the way you live.
Big data is exactly what the name describes – a large amount of data. Every minute of every day, huge amounts of data are generated all over the world, from every digital connection.
With more and more offline activities connected to the digital world in different ways, the amount of data being gathered is only increasing exponentially. This can include all kinds of information such as sales and purchase details, people’s movements across cities and between countries, the times of day people prefer to carry out different types of activities, differences between various age groups or genders and much more. All of this adds up to a complex and extremely useful model of behavior, one that is highly valuable for businesses and organizations everywhere.
Read on to find out some of the key facts you should know about big data and how it can affect your life.
It is responsible for keeping you safe
The idea of big data is often treated with suspicion, however rather than being part of a covert surveillance operation, big data is actually a helpful tool in keeping the general public safe and healthy. By collecting information regularly about how people behave, possible risk factors, public health issues, social changes and more, the data can be analyzed to create a detailed picture of how to improve safety and wellbeing.
This has been used in numerous settings, from helping to make workplaces safer for employees, to assessing the timing and location for public transport. In recent months across the global epidemic, big data has provided invaluable information for governments and public health bodies to assess areas of risk, as well as guiding decisions to change and modify restrictions.
It provides you with a tailored experience online
If you’ve been reading up on how big data shapes your everyday life, click here for more information, one of the things you may have noticed is that it is widely used in e-commerce. By gathering information about customers’ browsing, searching and purchasing patterns, online retailers can more effectively target campaigns and promotions. This means that you are less likely to see online advertisements or campaigns for products and services that are not going to appeal to you based on your previous behavior.
While big data and artificial intelligence are separate things, the two have a close relationship. Machine learning and AI are increasingly in use to gather large amounts of data quickly and efficiently, and provide rapid analysis of it for businesses to use. The advantage of machine learning is that it also allows the technology to evolve and adopt previous findings into its models, ultimately refining and improving the results given as more data is provided.
For the end user, this means that you will see an increasingly more personalized web experience. You will often be shown different types of content based on what you engage with, search for and the times of day you carry out different activities. This makes it easier than ever for businesses to anticipate your needs and create targeted content to encourage you to make a purchase.
It can lead to biases
A major disadvantage of big data that has increasingly come into public awareness is the potential of creating an inadvertently biased picture of the world. Big data thrives on accumulating information about people’s behaviors and suggesting ways to capitalize on this. However, in doing so, it can also exclude other groups of people from activities or limit the kind of information that is shown in certain places.
If you use social media to research news and information regularly, you may notice that you are directed towards more resources that are likely to appeal to you – based on your previous searches and browsing history. While this can be informative and useful, it can also discourage some users from looking beyond familiar sources and even create a distorted view of the wider world.
These biases can have far reaching impacts in numerous fields – for instance, in the medical sector data gathered on certain population groups or illnesses may only reveal a certain picture, which does not accurately reflect everyone’s experiences. This bias could lead to the development of inappropriate forms of treatment. To rectify the inherent bias that emerge in data, more processes of transparency and overview often need to be established within systems.
Your data can put you at risk
Finally, a major concern around the gathering and increased use of big data is the potential of a data breach or leak. With more and more personal and confidential information gathered across a wide variety of sources, there is a growing risk of harm from the loss or theft of information. With many online organizations, such as retailers and government bodies, the breach of data can expose vulnerable members of the public to identity theft, fraud, and other forms of harm. Several high profile data leaks have revealed confidential information to the general public or to online crime groups around the world.
To create a safer data environment, both organisations and members of the public need to have a better understanding of how digital information is collected and used. It is important to make sure that all forms of customer data are stored in a secure and safe way, with regular checks in place to prevent breaches or data loss. For ordinary people, it is equally important to be educated on where and how data can be gathered and where it may be used. With options to opt in or opt out of some channels, people have more choices about where their information may be used and it is a good idea to pay attention to this.