Big Data: Corporations and User

One day you decide to buy a shirt online and start browsing multiple clothing websites, but before you know it Facebook starts having these clothing advertisements all over your news feed. Everyone with a Facebook would have experienced this once in there lifetime whether it is with clothing, accessories, games or technology.

This is where Big Data comes in. ‘Big Data can be characterized by 3Vs: the extreme volume of data, the wide variety of data and the velocity at which the data must be processed’ (Exelia, 2014). It isn’t simply the amount of data being generated, collected and stored but more of who and how it is being utilised, as it has become ‘a massive phenomenon that has rapidly become an obsession with entrepreneurs, scientists, governments and the media’ (Harford, 2014). It has become such an obsession due to the amount of profit and values it brings in, this can be portrayed in the studies by the McKinsey Global Institute where they conducted research on five domains—healthcare in the United States, the public sector in Europe, retail in the United States, and manufacturing and personal-location data globally. Some of the stunning figures presented are: retailers having a potential of increasing its operating margin by more than 60 percent; healthcare sector potentially creating more than USD$300 billion (AUD$322 billion) in value every year; government administrators could save more than €100 billion (AUD$143 billion) in operational efficiency improvements alone, and such figures make us realise the importance of Big Data in the economy.

With such advancements in technology, the question we are faced with is ‘what is the problem here?’ and this is where things get complicated. Privacy is the main issue with the usage of Big Data, there are many conflicting arguments on the imperfect ways corporations have utilised personal data and the ‘lack of transparency around it’ (Funnell, 2014). Of course, by having big corporations like Google, Facebook and Twitter collect our data would mean users would have greater quality and faster free service, but what most users don’t understand is the billions of dollars being profited from it and exactly how they use the data. However, some will argue that this is the repayment of the constantly upgraded free services given to the users and that having them monitor means a safer and more enjoyable experience. Del Harvey, VP of Trust & Safety at Twitter, gives us an example of the type of safety given to users when using twitter. She mentions that ‘When you take a picture with your smartphone or digital camera, there’s a lot of additional information saved along in that image’ called Geodata. With Geodata, people are able to track down your exact location and so when twitter launched photos on twitter they had stripped out that data.

If we, as users, ‘assume the worst and work backwards’ (Harvey, 2014) we will start thinking more about the contents we post online, how these contents are being utilised and ways of minimizing privacy invasion because we all know that when we ‘tweet’ or ‘post’ something on the net, it is for the world to see and big corporations will not bypass such valuable data.

Reference List

Exelia 2014, 5 Facts About Big Data, weblog, Exelia Technologies, viewed 20 August 2014, <>

Funnell, A. 2014, Social media, data and property rights, audio podcast, Future Tense, ABC Radio, Sydney, 16 March, viewed 14 August 2014, <>

Harford, T. 2014, Big data: are we making a big mistake?, FT Magazine, Financial Times, viewed 20 August 2014, <>

Harvey, D. 2014, The Strangeness of Scale at Twitter, video recording, TED, viewed 19 August 2014, <>.

Manyika, J., Chui, M., Brown, B., Bughin, J., Dobbs, R., Roxburgh, C. & Byers, A. 2011, Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity, McKinsey & Company, viewed 20 August 2014, <>


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