We live in a world where technology has become an integral part of our daily activities. From waking up to the alarm on your smartphone to navigating to places with GPS assisted maps, technology has replaced almost everything that we used on a daily basis. Your smartphone is learning about your taste in music while you skip certain songs, it knows where you live, where you work and what you shop online. That’s so much information about you, some of which even your best friend wouldn’t know. Smartphones and computers keep collecting such data in the background when you are using them. Social networks like Facebook even knows you a lot more than that, it knows who your friends are, who you talk to more often and what you like and dislike.
All of this information stays on the cloud or open web and gets accumulated as what we call the ‘Big data’. Considering the amount of information the web knows about you, it’s reasonable to wonder if this is a good trend. If you are already concerned about invasion of privacy and all the negativity surrounding data, here is a look at the bright side, so that you can make an informed decision about choosing what to share with the web.
What exactly does the web know about you?
Wondering what the web knows about you? Most people now use a desktop/laptop computer and a smartphone. Assuming you use both, here is what the web knows about you, roughly.
1. Your smartphone knows where you live and work
2. Google knows all the places you’ve travelled to, if you use an Android phone.
3. YouTube knows your media consumption preferences
4. Your favourite Ecommerce portal knows what brands you prefer
5. Facebook knows your personality from the posts you’ve liked
6. Amazon knows what kind of books you like to read
7. Your credit card company knows where and what you shop for
8. Google, Apple and Windows know what you ask their virtual assistant apps
9. Many smartphone apps have access to your contact list and inbox
10. Gmail knows about all your email conversations
Why Big data is beneficial to the end user
Despite the scary fact that the technology we use knows us so much more than we expected, it has its benefits. Data being collected by your smartphone, computer or even the social network is primarily being used for improving your own experience with the services. This is beneficial to the end users in many different ways. For example, every time you do a search on google while you are logged in to your account, google is tagging that particular search term with your account. It knows everything you’ve searched for in the past and is using it to make your search results more personalised. The good side of this is that you are more likely to find exactly what you are looking for every time you search on google.
Facebook’s friend suggestions is another brilliant implementation of big data. Ever noticed Facebook suggesting your almost forgotten friends from school, out of the blue? This is because they use an intelligent algorithm to match your profiles with common data points which wouldn’t have been possible if it knew nothing about you.
Your smartphone can keep a track of your daily commuting route to give a heads up when there is a traffic jam on the route. It can also do so much more with the data it has about you, like let you know when a package has been sent, update you with live sports scores for your favourite teams, and inform you when your flight is delayed. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Your whole daily routine is being tracked and used for helping you stay on track with life while making the technology smarter and personal. In short, the data backed technologies saves us a lot of time and effort. With the fast paced life we live now, this help from technology is hard to reject.
Data for business
Companies are monitoring Twitter, public forums and other similar social sites to find out what people are talking about their brand, product or the latest change in their service. Every tweet you send out is impacting the mass opinion on a new trending topic. Businesses use web scraping technologies to collect the tweets about them in order to get deep insights about users’ opinion on their products or services. Data collected for brand monitoring helps them understand what and where they lack. This again is beneficial to the end users as companies use this data to improve their own services.
Why it’s okay that the web knows so much about you
Almost all of your smart devices are collecting data about you, with or without you being aware of it. From what we’ve seen and experienced, big data is making everything better for end users as well as the businesses. A scenario where everyone benefits can’t be bad. Especially when life without technology is not imaginable anymore, there is little point in trying to hold back the technology’s urge to become smarter and serve us better.