Data mining and data brokers are two concepts that everyone who has a smart phone and/or uses the internet need to at least be aware of. One need not be an activist on the subject, but these are issues that effect you whether you care or not, know about them or not, are pro or con. If you are the type who is upset about the NSA bulk collection revelations by Edward Snowden, data mining and data brokers definitely need to be on your radar.
- Who is mining our data? Traction, Acxiom, Datalogix, Epsilon and Experian are the big time data brokers. But there are literally thousands of these broker firms.
- What is data mining? Data mining and data brokering is why email and social media are free. They are why you get a discount with a membership card at a grocery store, coffee shop, department store, etc. Our email addresses, likes, retweets, pins, reblogs, and purchases are monitored, collected, grouped, and sold in bulk to the highest bidder.
- When is our data being mined? Any time we visit a website. Any time we log in to any online account with a registered email address. Any time we pay for something with a credit, debit, or gift card.
- Where are these data mines? The headquarters/ server farms at the HQ of Google, Facebook, and the data brokerage firms listed above. Google and Facebook keep the information whereas the data brokers exchange and sell the information just as stocks, options, treasuries, etc are on Wall Street.
- How is this done? Digitally/electronically through cookies in your web/ios browser(s), the networked computer the card swiper in the store is attached to…you get the idea.
- Why is this worth knowing about and/or caring about? Because it is unregulated and most people don’t know that simply visiting a website is giving permission for your information to be raided, collected, and sold. Because our privacy is not just being violated, for those who use web browsers and smartphones, our privacy actually no longer exists.
The data mining industry is self-regulated. How did self-regulation work out for the meat-packing industry? Tobacco industry? Investment banking industry? Real estate industry?
60 minutes recently did a piece on data mining that is a must see for every internet user. The videos are short, easy to digest, informative, and unbiased. Including the journey to opt out of data collection and the easier, smaller steps we can all take to protect our privacy.
The billboards one sees when driving on a highway, have now replaced the road. There is no such thing as a free lunch. We were/are all naïve to think that email, social media, and discounts at retailers came at no cost. The costs are our identities, habits, desires, physical location, history, age, sex, preferences, strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, and failures. All the things we used to only tell our friends and family that we now post electronically for the entire world to see. The thing about that is, advertisers are part of the world too.
We have a right to privacy. A basic human right. Many people will be and are happy to give it away in exchange for what they get online and offline. But data mining is done in secret. Big data are obstructing congressional investigations into them. If what they are doing isn’t wrong, why the secrecy? Why the obstruction? Why decline interviews? Why not let people opt out?
And before you point the finger at the firms listed above, remember the biggest, baddest and OG of the data mining industry has been and always will be, Google.