Big Data – both creepy and fascinating

santaNOTE: This was from my old A&L Enterprises blog – but I thought it was interesting…

One of the things I’ve been thinking about for a long time is that Big Data is both creepy and fascinating at the same time. In a way Big Data reminds of Santa Claus – as that dude can also be kind of creepy. Many of you know the song goes “… he sees you when you are sleeping.. he knows when you are awake.. he knows if you’ve been bad or good..” So this guy knows all about you – he’s checking up on you. In some ways he acts like a stalker – knowing when you are awake or asleep.

Of course – today your phone may know if you are awake or not – as it goes with you everywhere. If you think about it you give it signals to know that:

  • You plug it into the charger – often when you go to bed
  • It stops moving – at the place where you spend a lot of time (this is how it guesses “home”)
  • You stop using it.

In a way this is fascinating – that it can be figured out today – without you having to tell it. Some of it is also useful – as my phone can tell me how long it’s going to take to get to different places (work to home, home to work, etc.). The “Google Now” functionality tells me a few other things – as it remembers (even asks) what is important to me – such as sports scores.

A lot of people have this love-hate relationship with Facebook and Google – as they’re both useful and an invasion of privacy. By using these services you give up a lot of personal information – that they make money off of. I know some people could care less about Facebook – but many (including me) are pretty hooked on it. As for Google – I’ll admit I’m pretty much deeply in their clutches – as it’s very, very useful to me.

Often when I hear about something people can do with data – some fascinating analysis and resulting understanding – I’m often very interested in understanding it. Then after a little while I get this shiver – as I feel the inherent creepiness of it – of someone knowing that about you or me. There is probably a lot more data out there about us than we want to know (is ignorance bliss?). Of course – data has been collected about you for some time – credit history, insurance history, medical records, etc.

So what do you think – what is creepiness factor of Big Data (or of Santa Claus)? Is the cat out of bag (where did that phrase come from) on this note? Is privacy a thing of the past?

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