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2013: The War Between Big Data and Privacy

2013: The War Between Big Data and Privacy



Big Data vs Privacy



My long time readers know that at the end of every year I make predictions about the upcoming year in tech. To date, I have a pretty awesome track record, if I do say so.

But this year, I’m calling the entire year as the ‘War Between Big Data & Privacy.’  That’s right, I’m naming the entire year!

So here’s my rationale for running with that declaration.

In 2012 we saw the term ‘big data’ enter our vocabulary. Few of the average users of social media even understand the meaning of the term, let alone the privacy implications of it.


Marketers – especially large marketers – have jumped on the big data band wagon lining the pockets of Wall Streets favored child, Facebook. But Facebook isn’t alone. Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and any other social media site that collects user data is building up a big fat database on all users.

The purpose? To sell it to those big marketers and other large companies who can profit by the information you give away so freely.

Facebook’s ‘open graph’ or ‘social graph’ as it’s also called, connects the dots between diverse amounts of data wrapping it into a neatly packaged collection specific to you.

Skip tracers and collection agencies can find deadbeat bill payers by finding their family through the open graph. Ever get a phone call for a friend of one of your children or family members? The debt collection agency tied you to that person through the open graph. If the agency can find the person and collect on the debt, they make money.

Major retailers love big data because they can determine how likely you are to shop with them (your likes or friends likes), what type of products appeal to you (your likes and keywords on your posts to social sites), and where you’ve shopped before (social buttons on retail websites).

This past holiday season, I purchased a lot of my gifts online. From Amazon to the Sons of Anarchy shop I was prompted to share my purchase with my Twitter and Facebook friends.

I see so many of my social media connections frivolously sharing information that’s just adding to the big data collection that sites are building on them. And it’s only going to continue to get worse as we move into 2013.

Little by little, social media sites are going to creep toward the line where privacy is so blurred that we will one day look back, scratching our heads and wonder when did it happen?

However, for all those that are carelessly giving away their private information, there are a few of us out here who are standing watch. I predict that somewhere near the second half of the year, a massive amount of people are going to wake up to the dangers of the big data collection.

It’s going to be a very big event. I don’t know if it will be a huge data breach in one of the collection points (silos) of the data, or whether some privacy policy change will spark another outrage like the recent Instagram change. But I do know it will be big and it will be very important.

As more and more people wise up to how their data is being used, they will stop posting information that marketers can use and social media sites will start to see a decline in revenue.

Facebook will totally lose its ‘favored son’ status on Wall Street and its stocks will plummet even more than they did. Facebook may then be forced to provide more advertising, intruding even more on the timeline and making Facebook an annoyance to read.

The one thing my psychology degree has given me is insight into the human psyche. People are fickle – especially when it comes to faceless organizations and corporations. If the social media sites stop providing them with what they came there for in the first place, they will leave. Look at MySpace. Need I say more?

So I predict that 2013 will start the war between big data and the companies that collect it and the concerns for privacy among users. A privacy revolution of sorts.

I also have some thoughts and predictions about Apple, Microsoft, and other tech news but that’s the subject for the next post.

Have any thoughts about my prediction here? Feel free to leave a comment!

Happy New Year!


Image Source: Internet Tech Specialists