Tag Archives: caution

The Datafication of Our Lives (Lucas Muller)

“Datafied location across time is most notably being applied to people. For years wireless operators have collected and analyzed information to improve the service level of their networks. But the data is increasingly being used for other purposes and collected by third parties for new services. Some smartphone applications, for example, gather location information regardless of whether the app itself a location-based feature. In other cases, the whole point of an app is to build a business around knowing the users’ locations. An example is Foursquare, which lets people “check in” at their favorite locations. It earns income from loyalty programs, restaurant recommendations, and other location-related services” – Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier’s Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. 

The rise of “Big Data” has been swift, and the data collected on us today is often sensitive as well as private. Data like this can turn into harmful information when in the wrong hands and, for this reason, people should be wary of the technological advances in data collection today that have been utilized by large smartphone corporations.

The technological race that brought portable devices into the vast majority of pockets throughout the 21st century came so rapidly that most people did not realize how much more their phones had become capable of in recent years. I have often seen the look of incredulity as someone I know discovers a feature on their smartphone they were formerly oblivious to. Google, for example, now has the ability to collect data from every smartphone in the form of location, browsing history, and app preferences to provide smarter services to enhance the user experience with their products. However, they also store this data in massive quantities and utilize it for “company research”. Google has data to show where each of their customers has been, what they have searched on the internet, and what pictures they have taken on their phones.

The “datafication” of our lives is a highly sensitive movement; it gives corporations the means to collects data from the privacy of anyone’s life, such as the whereabouts their honeymoons, and makes it accessible to companies like Google who may assess it for “research”. Although it is true that massive data collection helps Google provide a number of conveniences to its users, such as GPS, smarter browsing, and more relevant advertising, the frequent reports of cyber-attacks that occur across the globe remind us of the dangers involved with placing information in the Cloud where it can be accessed by hackers.  For this reason, people have every right to feel hesitant about the rise of “Big Data” today.