Companies using Big Data aim to cater accurately, influence internet users

Lauren Boettcher

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Even+the+seemingly+mundane+act+of+shopping+online+gives+Big+Data+companies+information+about+a+person.

Lauren Boettcher

Even the seemingly mundane act of shopping online gives Big Data companies information about a person.

Big data. Two words full of controversy and frequently the topic of political debate. Big data is basically an accumulation of a person’s digital footprint. Based on Facebook likes, Google searches, and followers, big data companies are able to figure out almost everything about a person from their gender to religion to intelligence or history with substance abuse. They can do all of this with alarming accuracy.  According to data analyst Michal Kosinski, who has done extensive research into big data, “Our smartphones are a vast psychological questionnaire that we are constantly filling out. Through user agreements for Facebook activities, twitter questionnaires, and personality tests that unknowingly allow big data companies to track online use.

 

While it can be unsettling that so much information can be collected and interpreted about someone, the way it is used can be even scarier. Many frequent social media users have probably already experienced the effects of this. For example; after searching for prom dresses online, Facebook ads will change to dress sites. “It really creeps me out when I’m shopping online and then I see a bunch of stuff I was looking for on other sites when I visit them, I feel like I’m being followed by a robot” senior Maggie Gallagher said.

It really creeps me out when I’m shopping online and then I see a bunch of stuff I was looking for on other sites when I visit them, I feel like I’m being followed by a robot”

— Maggie Gallagher

 

Others analytical companies use big data to manipulate on behalf of political parties or movements. Just google “Trump Big Data” or “Brexit Big Data” and read one of the million stories about how marketing corporations used people’s personal data footprint to figure out how to best market to them and change their vote.
Recently the US House of Representatives voted to kill privacy laws, allowing companies to sell users histories and data. Now more than ever, big data can be dangerous, and it is important to be conscience of the digital footprint that internet use leaves, especially now that that data can be sold to companies and used to sell you or convince you of things without you even knowing. Be conscious of the big data companies and the ads you see.