Did you know that the data we produce online every day — LinkedIn profiles, “tweets”, online purchases, cell phone use, and pretty much every move we make online — ends up in giant data centers where companies like Google and Microsoft can manipulate it?
They retain multiple copies of lots of our data, including email correspondence, to keep service moving at a speedy clip and cover themselves for data loss when servers crash, as so often happens.
Dan Schawbel wrote an enlightening blog post a few days ago about how the data is used and by whom, The Fall of Privacy and the Rise of the Numerati.
“We produce loads of tiny details about our lives–what we buy, what we click online, where we go with our cell phones. These bits of data travel on networks, and if someone were to piece them together, in a sort of mosaic, we would each pop into view.
The only people who can do this, who can find us in the rivers of data we produce, are the mathematicians, engineers and computer scientists that I call the Numerati.
The book is about how they piece us together, from our data, and predict our behavior as shoppers, workers, patients, potential terrorists, etc.”
Not surprising, his publisher, Houghton Mifflin, has launched a behavioral targeting campaign for his book, to analyze the surfing patterns of people who click on Numerati ads. The most promising group of shoppers will be hit with about 7 million ads, which he says is not a big campaign.
I find all this a little frightening. Baker thinks it’s mostly positive and sees many benefits. For one thing, he believes that the analysis of our data will likely lead to critical future advances in science and medicine.