Have you ever experienced that moment when you have just been surfing for airline tickets to a particular country, or reading up on lists of attractions to visit there, when a creepy ad for hotels in the same country pops up in your ad banners?
Congratulations! You have just got a taste of what big data can do!
Artist: Mark Anderson
You are most likely aware that whatever you do on your PC and laptops is collecting your data. But did you know there are companies (termed as “data brokers”) who specify in purely collecting your data and all kinds of information on you to be sold?
And it does not just stop there. Not when we are living in an increasingly connected world where whatever you do not just on your laptop, but on your smartphones and IoT devices are becoming a wealth of information to data broker companies.
Welcome to the world of big data; where large volumes of your data is being collected, mined and analysed to paint a picture of exactly who you are.
Every time you are browsing Instagram; every time you are playing music on Spotify. Your subconscious behaviour and habits builds a profile of your preferences as a consumer.
Acxiom, one of the largest data-brokering firms is one such company out of the hundreds out there who are monopolising on your big data.
Scott Howe, Acxiom’s CEO, explained how “We collect things like contact information, demographics and your preferences on things. And we’ll aggregate that information to try to discern a picture of what people want”.
The logic goes that ‘because Person A has done X, Y and Z across a variety of platforms, we can build a profile on what they like. Hence we can get them to buy this and that by showing them a specific type on advertisement.
While big data is just the collection of large amounts of information on you, companies look into analysing big data in order to be intelligent on who you are, or what you might be interested in. This way, companies can continue serving you ads that they believe will be products and services of concern to you.
Just subscribed to a gym membership last month? Here is an advertisement on healthy breakfast muesli bars!
Just got pregnant? Here are some coupons for baby products! (Or in Target’s case, even finding out about a teen girl’s pregnancy before her own father did)
Right now, you could be living in a social media echo chamber and not even realise it.
A social media echo chamber, or a “filter bubble”, can be created due to the algorithms of social media’s targeted advertising.
Because algorithms of Facebook and Instagram tend to steer us to content it thinks we have interest in, the danger of it is that an echo chamber blocks out anything that seems to have opposing likes of ours.
And that is what happens when you click into just one sponsored Instagram post for an online boutique, and about 10 other sponsored ads are only on other online boutiques.
No matter what you do, no matter where you go; if you are online, it is almost impossible to not have some degree of information collected on you. However what you can do is to limit your data from being poached by data brokers.
Ideally, what you would want to do is limit the information you are providing to the Internet. One of the best practices you can opt for is to have a VPN software help anonymise you on the Internet. A VPN service such as BolehVPN will help you encrypt your data to prevent eavesdropping and secure your Internet traffic data!