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My data…big and small

Posted by Don McLenaghen on July 11, 2013

Earlier I wrote about the ‘good’ of Big Data, now we are going to continue our discussion of Big Data but this time we take at look at the ‘bad’ of Big Data…its dark side. This is a Six Part Series based on my discussion on Radio Freethinkers broken down into bite sized pieces.

Part 1 – How small data becomes big.


How does Big Bad Data present itself?

Well, let’s break it down into three categories…personal, corporate and governmental. Granted this is a tad arbitrary…we could slice and dice it a number of ways, but I find this allows us to clearly understand our relation to each and how each interacts with the other.

With personal data, we have already discussed the fact that we are great generators of data. We have our tweets, emails, phone calls, blogs, likes, pokes and etc. We allow location tracking; tracking cookies and we habitually and obediently click yes on those pages of long agreements when we install that must-have app.

So, our first of the ‘bad’ of Big Personal Data is the stratification and isolation of individuals into data ghettos…what I call the bubble-fying of society.  One of the ironies of having so much information at hand is that we can get corralled into self-isolating preference filter bubbles.

97740087_9d2d2bb254_o.jpgIn their efforts to provide you better service via Big Data, companies like Google learn what you like, so when you do a Google search you get results tailored to your preferences.

This has a good side, so if your parents want to find out what latex paint bonds best to the dog house…and they put in search terms latex, bonding and dog house.

In the old days you would get porn sites featuring bondage, domination and latex fetishes. But Big Data is smart enough…we hope…that’s not the kind of thing they have searched in the past, but they have done a lot of DYI searches so up pops painting sites.

However, the down side of this is when we do other kinds of searches…like Snowden and NSA…if you are a lefty like myself, I will get sites like Democracy Now, Truthdig, and generally pro-Snowden sites that condemn the actions of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the security state.

harper-2011-electionHowever, if Harper did such a search…and I will assume he is more to the right than myself…he would get a completely different set of results. These would be the Fox News, Sun Media and generally pro-surveillance state and the branding of Snowden as a traitor.

This bubblefication of society means there is less cross talk…less mingling of ideas…an absence that there is even an ‘other’ view…because literally they have been removed from our sight…from our world view. And we are only talking about our own self-generated data that allows this ideological or social filtering to occur.

Another aspect of Big Personal Data…well, actually it’s not that big at all.

bigdata2-500x391Some people in the business call this – Small Data…it’s still large historically but small in contrast to Big Data. It’s still a lot of information but there is no technical reason that it could not be stored locally…on our PC where we would have control of it.

But instead, the paradigm is to allow all this data to flow into corporate servers, thus creating Big Corporate Data.

In Part 2, we will discuss the bad of Big Corporate Data…



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