The data analytics age

I remember years ago when people were telling me how the information age is over and everyone was trying to come up with a name for what was to follow. Well guess what, the information age is not over. We are finally getting to the point where the Internet dream of having access to all sorts of data from anywhere is being realized. Increasingly companies and individuals are tracking their every day lives and creating digital records of their activities. Life hasn’t really changed much (well sort of) but what has changed is the fact that now you have a digital trace of most of your activities which makes data analysis of your life possible. If you are under 25 (or so) you can actually create a digital footprint of most of your life (well the bits that actually do matter) and if your are under 15 then your whole life has a digital footprint. You can analyse things like the amount of money that you spend, the types of activities that you like, your friends, the social groups that you belong to, and the list goes on. It is actually possible to analyse your own decisions and sometimes even predict your next one. And things are only starting in that aspect. Advertisers love it and so do marketing people. We are only experiencing issues related to ownership of digital content but what I thing is more important is that we have actually entered the age of data analytics. 10 years ago, history was only used as record of past events. You record events and maybe one they it is being passed down to the next generation as an account of what happened. It was a bit of an identity building tool. Today however, the history of your life is being recorded as it happens and we are getting closer and closer to actually being able to obtain real time analysis of those events. History is actually used more and more as a decision making tool and it even seems like you are having a communication with other people through their historic records. You read tweets, blogs, facebook messages and you comment on them. Within seconds the words knows what you think and you feel important and in control.
Fair enough, it doesn’t work the same for everyone and you still have a lot of people who’s voice is never heard just because they are poor but hey you get to hear the opinion of a lot more people than you use to even 5 years ago and that is another step towards freedom. Of course you realize very fast that you don’t really want to listen to 95% of the people out there because they don’t really have anything of value to say but hey freedom has it’s price. Anyway back to the analytics question. Like I said we are in the age of analytics and it is scary though that your life is simply being turned into a digital record of it and that whoever controls that digital record de facto owns your life. This is where governments need to step in and they really need to catchup fast. Now more than ever is true freedom at stake. Forget the constitution and all those innate freedoms listed in it. I think both Hobbs and Locke would find it very hard to explain who the enemy is today. Does Google really control the world or does the world control Google? What right does and advertiser have to know then was the list time you purchased toilet paper and what brand it was? Do you really want your car to know what music you prefer and does your car send out that information to someone else? Questions like this would become more and more important as we slowly move to cloud computing and as collected data becomes too large to be stored locally. I’m not saying that there are no solutions, but designing services should by law be made a lot more responsible job and there should be some universal data storage and sharing laws that ensure that you don’t become a victim of your virtual presence.

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