Freely Given Data

(Image thanks to Code Project http://www.codeproject.com/Articles/700324/Data-protection-and-privacy-law-for-developers)

The whole idea of 'big data' makes people a little uncomfortable. And it should, since most of us give up our personal 'data' unintentionally as we move about the Internet.

Don Peck writing in The Atlantic, for example, sounds an ominous note:

But there is no denying the vast increase in the range and depth of information that’s routinely captured about how we behave, and the new kinds of analysis that this enables. By one estimate, more than 98 percent of the world’s information is now stored digitally, and the volume of that data has quadrupled since 2007. Ordinary people at work and at home generate much of this data, by sending e-mails, browsing the Internet, using social media, working on crowd-sourced projects, and more—and in doing so they have unwittingly helped launch a grand new societal project.

For marketers, it may seem as if access to this accumulation of personal information is a benediction. But they should be careful of the backlash when individuals take their knowledge of the source of 'big data', combine it with the revelations that the NSA and the Communications Security Establishment Canada are scarfing down all manner of stuff we didn't know they had, and begin to think they should lie low or maybe just lie.

Hence the appeal of an idea put forward last night at a Third Tuesday event in Toronto called "The Human Side of Social Analytics with Jim Sterne". According to Sterne, the best metric for successful data accumulation is when it is given freely (what he calls "personally provided information") for a reasonable return for the information. 

As a reluctant consumer, and a wary guardian of personal privacy, I'm going to be a happier customer and citizen knowing (clearly and without fear of corporate or government duplicity) that by taking an action online I have agreed to provide personal data, that I can control what it will be used for, and that I get ongoing value (as defined by me) in return. 

Put simply, and I suspect Mr. Sterne agrees, big or small data collected from willing data 'companions' will lead to more influential and behaviour changing campaigns.

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