With almost everything we do, we are leaving trail bits of tech data. Think about where you are right now, the computer (PC, Mac, tablet, phone, etc.) that you are using, the websites you’ve visited today, the items you’ve purchased and posts you’ve made on social media platforms.
Now consider that process over time – most of us won’t remember all of what we did this week alone. But if you collected the tech trail of information about yourself and performed an analysis on it, you’d be surprised by what the data tells you. You’d be able to identify trends and patterns in your behavior, your moods, spending habits, and so on.
Now imagine what businesses, governments, credit authorities, and data resellers have on you. This is not meant to make you wary of the digital age, it is simply to make you aware. It’s a cliche, but “knowledge is power.”
Big data is a term used to describe large (possibly petabytes) and complex data sets that are oftentimes difficult to process with commonly used software for data management. However, with new technologies that can efficiently process large amounts of data, analytics can provide insights into patterns which can lead to a myriad of opportunities.
For those who have taken advantage of big data or at least kept abreast of the topic, it is known that there are some amazing benefits to big data analytics – tailored recommendations, fraud prevention, real-time traffic information, just to name a few. But there are always two sides of a coin.
So, how might this pile of data be used against individuals or groups of people? Let’s say you live in an underprivileged neighborhood; you might receive credit card offers with higher than normal interest rates. This could be because big-data analysis identified that many people living in your area are short of cash, maybe in need of a credit card and don’t qualify for good terms.
This doesn’t mean you aren’t financially responsible, don’t qualify for a better rate, and wouldn’t be given one if you had applied on your own. But people are put into categories, and categories are used for marketing and decision-making.
Perhaps you frequent retailers where a large majority of other shoppers, possibly of your same race, also frequent, but many of them make late payments on their credit cards. Your credit card limit may be automatically decreased because your credit card company has created an algorithm that analyzes big data and determines high-risk profiles. You may be categorized with those who have high-risk profiles because of your weak association with those shoppers.
Think about how your social network, your posts, tweets, etc., all could play a role in your creditworthiness. Some companies are thinking of using social networks to help rate their customers.
These are just a few theories and possible examples of how big data can be used in somewhat nefarious ways. If you are divulging information that can be used by others, be mindful of what you share, how you use these technologies, and what can be done with it.
Be the master of your digital mind!
Quiessence is an Information Security Professional with over seven years of experience. She is also the Curriculum Development Lead for Black Girls CODE NY, creator of the Girltechie Campaign, and a workshop called “Securing Your Web”. Find her on the web @ www.itsquiessence.com