Big Data: Intrusion of Privacy or A Business Strategy?

How Big Data is Normalized in Our Everyday Lives.


While browsing through Facebook, I started to discover that my news feed was specifically targeting my lifestyle. The past week, I was shopping for new shirts and jackets from different companies such as Macy’s, Uniqlo and Target. After a week of forgetting to return to those sites, Facebook suggested the same clothes and company I browsed for on my news feed a week later, in hopes of me noticing. It attracted me to click through the small slideshow and be redirected to their website to shop. At first I thought that this was great, because I didn’t have to go through the process of finding the same clothes again; however, I began to question the process of this.

My Facebook news feed suggesting a recent shirt I browsed on Uniqlo.com

Knowing the reasons and the process behind Big Data, I realized that Facebook has been monitoring my activity on the Internet. This is an intrusion of privacy and scares many that our lives are being watched by technology and other servers, but that’s what we agreed upon within the terms and agreements of using these “free” media. Companies are allowed to monitor our activity and use them legally. Any website I use to shop or browse would be sent to these servers and other media sites as “data” and then transferred to other sites as suggestions. As it does benefit big corporations and other businesses as a great marketing strategy, it condenses our sense of value as consumers. Because of these targeted ads and concentrated algorithm, I believe we are unable to do things without a certain profile set upon us. We are set upon these “normalized standards” of media and accept it into our everyday lives.

Dilbert Cartoon discussing the ethics of Big Data.

While Big Data has no meaningful purpose in my life as it stands, in the future, it could evolve as to profiling me even more than it should. It is now transforming how social network functions, because it requires minimal effort to collect tons of data. With only a few clicks, my data and cookies will be distributed to companies for marketing and business tactics.

“Data measurement, Professor Brynjolfsson explains, is the modern equivalent of the microscope. Google searches, Facebook posts and Twitter messages, for example, make it possible to measure behavior and sentiment in fine detail and as it happens.”

Businesses are using this source to evolve their marketing strategies and to monitor certain audiences. Although this could benefit businesses and corporations, Big Data still does not have the right processes to advance in supporting these strategies. It is still a faulty program that can make mistakes in profiling or sorting behavior in consumers. It could make it easier to find a needle in a haystack, but it’s more like finding a needle in a needle stack. I agree with the research tactics of helping these businesses with their targeted consumers, but I do not advocate my life being monitored by anyone or anything. Do I want people or data to know I’m interested in buying a gun and be profiled as a criminal? Probably not.

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