Why you shouldn’t click this link

1The world of today runs on the internet, caffeine, and pure unadulterated data. Behind the scenes of every successful organization is some pretty solid number crunching. We live in a world where we are one click or tap away from free games, goulash recipes, or the history of Granada. A world where “free” in most cases isn’t exactly free.

Data is the medium of exchange for most pieces of consumer software out there. We pay in a sense through our usage. Data subsidizes your Clash of Clans, Google Searches, or Facebook News Feeds, through its analysis and sale to third parties. However in the larger picture, data analytics has some profound applications across the board. In describing the past, in predicting the future, and in prescribing a best course of action for days to come, data analytics can reveal deep insights into people, places, practices, organizations, and whatever other noun pops into your head. We are really in the frontier days for the mainstream recognizing the value of this skillset, yet tech companies the world over have been using these data techniques for monumental gains in productivity and profits since a little after the turn of the millennium.

But how can simply using a website or downloading an app keep it fiscally healthy? How is data so valuable? What can we possibly do with some numbers on a screen?

To start off a bit morbid let’s use data and a simulation to predict the most likely way you will die:

http://flowingdata.com/2016/01/19/how-you-will-die/

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To fuel those conspiracy nuts let’s look at some (interactive) descriptive analytics showing the flight paths of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over various parts of the United States.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/peteraldhous/spies-in-the-skies

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What am I doing with your data though? Why shouldn’t you click this link?

Perhaps I’m a slightly Orwellian government using predictive analytics on everyone’s web traffic and emails to determine whether or not you are a terrorist:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_surveillance_disclosures_%282013%E2%80%93present%29

Perhaps I’m a corporation that compiles comprehensive reports on every individual in the US for marketing purposes:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acxiom

Or maybe I’m a college student looking at your browsing statistics via a free analytics tool to determine how effective my article was:

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Free isn’t exactly free these days. Data has a lot more potential than simply being sold to advertisers for better targeting. When we use hard numbers from extensive variable lists, the world really is a sandbox in creating models to describe, predict, or prescript whatever topic is at hand.

In showing the kind of data that your giving to this site in viewing this page here are some illustrative graphs showing the typical viewer and their attributes:CaptureThe best part about this is that this is only a fraction of the data freely available via Google Analytics. There is a host of other variables and measures out there gathered via cookies, browsers, or social media that I could use for research or marketing or whatever other motive I might have. The wealth of data freely given should scare you. In using the Internet, in viewing this site, it should be clear by this point that you’re actively providing more of that data. Data used to define exactly who you are for marketers and governments the world over.

These insights into this world of data analytics are only the tip of the iceberg, from a student only just entering the discipline. When it comes to data and its applications, stay paranoid my friends.

 

Interested in some other applications of big data? Take a peak at some recent news stories and articles of interest:

http://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-says-it-wont-mess-with-voters-minds-donald-trump-presidential-elections/

venturebeat.com/2016/04/16/what-the-latest-facebook-reactions-data-means-for-social-marketers/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_cookie

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601214/how-political-candidates-know-if-youre-neurotic/

 

A blog post by

Devin Carlson

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