Remember that Adam Sandler movie “Big Daddy” (1999) about the guy who adopts a small boy to impress a girl then later realizes how much responsibility he has just undertaken? The girl is pretty, the kid is cute, the idea is fun, and the good hearted intentions of adopting an orphan are impressive. But Adam Sandler’s character soon learns the reality of parenthood is serious responsibility. Parenting means constant monitoring, long days, longer nights, lack of sleep, and endless safety concerns.
Enter Big Data. The analytics take the place of the girl and are packaged in pretty and easily adaptable functionalities. They are highly alluring as income generators. One could understand why a company would go to any lengths to “get the girl.” The consumers are for all intents and purposes the adopted cute kid that needs guidance. The idea of helping consumers find products they want and need (whether they know it or not) is loads of fun for advertisers. The ability to suggest things accurately to the consumer is impressive.
Enter movie plot twist. Work days grow longer in an attempt to stay on top of the 24 hour collection of data. Extra expenses are endured to safeguard collected data. And then as it does for Big Daddy, the reality of responsibility sets in for Big Data. Legal issues arise and as it happens in Big Daddy, the movie reveals adopting a child–or in this case an entire population of consumers–is more work than expected.
How can we look at Big Data through a different lens? How can we navigate Big Data for effective and safe legal, ethical, responsible, and utilitarian purposes? How can we take back the reins from those who are mining the data to regain our own control over what information we allow to be tracked about ourselves?
In the world of digital retail, computerized medical records, navigation systems, search engines, smart cars, phones, and even refrigerators, companies are collecting information about every single place we visit, thing we do, search for, photograph, record, blog, post or purchase. Big Data is growing smarter and smarter every single day. Even with this blog post, it has now learned that we are on to it, giving it the upper hand once again.
Future generations will have to find answers to this difficult dilemma. They will have to explore installations of ways to “turn off” tracking in real meaningful ways. They will have to create safeguards from hackers and cyber crimes. They will have to educate one another on what information is safe to share.
This post is for education purposes only for Syracuse University Newhouse School of Journalism.