It would be hard to imagine a life without internet in the 21st Century. It permeates every moment of our day. From when we wake until when we sleep, nearly everything we do involves the internet. We use to communicate with others, learn things, buy things and socialise. Those with Netflix or other services use it in their downtime. Most offices need it.
This is what makes the internet so powerful.
If nearly everything we do is online then nearly every facet of ourselves can be pored over and studied. Everything that I have ever done online is saved somewhere, ready for anyone with the know-how to analyse and infer meaning.
A business using data science could pull all my information off my social media profiles, analyse my browsing behaviours and even see where I was whilst interacting with their website. A data scientist looking at my profile would be able to see things which may not be immediately obvious to the traditional data analyst. Demographics would tell you that I’m an Asian-British female living in North London, aged 18-25.
But data science also says that I enjoy watching cooking shows while online shopping throughout them with my cats sat on my lap and I Instagram photos of us all watching Great British Bake Off. In a nutshell, data science and the internet is a match made in profile building heaven.
The internet isn’t something you can easily unplug from.
I’ve considered the idea of disconnecting myself from various social media sites and limiting the time I spend browsing endless websites. The simple fact is we all need the internet. We can take steps to limit our exposure, but there are still times when we need it – whether to communicate with overseas family and friends, or to find our way in a foreign city.
Interestingly there are still people out there with limited or no internet connectivity. Remote or poor regions often do not have internet access. Incidentally there has been moves made by large tech companies to get these people online. From Facebook’s drones to Google’s balloons, accessibility is now the name of the game. It makes sense for these companies to invest in bringing the internet to more people. Once online, these people will start producing reams of data that these companies can exploit.
Our future is going to be increasingly connected.
Companies are toying with wearables sensors, connected thermostats and smart homeware which will make our bodies speak to our homes and our cars and, of course, the internet. So very soon a company will be able to tell that I put the kettle on whilst I watch cooking shows, turn my thermostat up and my heartrate rises during the showstopper challenge.
All this knowledge is of little use however, if a business doesn’t know how to use it. That’s where a data scientist proves their worth. It not enough to just know this stuff about me, but to also make the connections between all this information. I put the kettle on because it boils in time for the first ad break, turn my thermostat up as I’m relaxing for the night, and my heartrate…well that’s directly linked to how the contestants are doing. These insights can be used by a company that markets tea for instance, to target me during the first ad break. On the flip side however, a utility company could also use my thermostat information to put their rates up in the evening.
Which leads me to consider the cons to this connected future.
Although the benefits delivered through businesses using my data are attractive (like getting streamlined offers exactly when I need them, no more junk emails clogging up my inbox) I cannot simply discard the downsides to having my data out there for companies to use.
There is a slight creepiness factor to having my every move watched.
Especially if it’s pretty personal information which I might not be aware if being broadcast in the first place (. In fact, if I knew that the tea company just sent me a message about their new herbal tea because they’d been monitoring my kettle usage… I might just boycott them.
My suggestion to businesses is not to do anything that would be creepy if you did it in person. In other words, I don’t expect to have the CEO of PG Tips watch me as I make a cuppa, so monitoring my kettle would probably be overkill.
We are reliant on the internet and becoming more so.
If we cannot limit our internet usage, maybe the answer is that businesses limit the amount of information they gather on us through it. They should set standards on how they use my data. They should also tell me about how my data is collected and used so I’m fully aware of the implications. An opt-in option would also be beneficial, like a tick box that tells a company if I wish for my data to be used, and for what. When using personal data from the internet a business needs to put its customer first. After all, I cannot fully unplug from the internet… but I can unplug from a brand who makes me feel uneasy with the way they use my data.
When using personal data from the internet a business needs to put its customer first. After all, I cannot fully unplug from the internet… but I can unplug from a brand who makes me feel uneasy with the way they use my data.