Week 15 – Big Data

April 13, 2015

“I love data!” There, I said it. My name is, “Ross Schmadebeck,” and I love data. There’s something mysterious, intrinsic, and skeptical with data that makes it of interest for me. That’s why this week’s readings on Big Data were both fun and kind of exciting, for a data nerd like myself.

While I love data, I am sometimes skeptical about where it’s being used and by whom. However, I also know that, generally speaking, I assume I’m being watched all the time; online, driving on the highway, the office cameras, it’s just somewhat become a fact of life, which is why this quote from the article, I’m Being Followed How Google and 104 Other Companies Are Tracking Me on the Web was poignant, “What is anonymity? What is identity? How similar are humans and machines?” Should we, both as humans and as Americans, have any expectation of “privacy” and what does “privacy” really mean? (not one of the official questions, but feel free to answer, if you’d like)

As a digital advertiser, who not only relies on the data that’s aggregated from these ad networks to ensure my message is reaching the most effective audience, but also to track that advertising conversion on our own web properties, I know what it means to both share, and receive this information. However, I wonder if users of websites would care for the alternative, un-filtered advertising. Let me give you a digital example, if I may?

I’ve been using a rental car recently that didn’t have satellite radio (bummer), so I’ve been forced to listen to “terrestrial” (such an odd name) radio this past weekend, which is LOADED with 30/60 second spots, many of which my company pays and runs. However, I’d estimate at least half the ads were completely irrelevant to me as a consumer. I don’t need dentures, I’m not seeking laser hair removal, I don’t need a bail bondsman, and while maybe someday it might be relevant, I don’t have any kids to send to a Disney talent audition.

While every song on the station I knew and enjoyed, I assume I’m either not their target demo, or they’re selling whatever space they have available to any advertiser; likely a combination of both. Essentially, broadcast advertising is or has become like any other blast mailings. Oh, and I’m not generally our target demo for my company’s ads, either.

However, contrast that to my online experience where advertising is tailored or customized based on my browsing or shopping experience. At least the ads are of relevance and might even convert me with a special deal or offer.

The second quote I’ll take from the above article that also struck me:

“… we increasingly live two lives: a physical one in which your name, social security number, passport number, and driver’s license are your main identity markers, and one digital, in which you have dozens of identity markers, which are known to you and me as cookies.”

No, I don’t need Pampers diapers, but that 10% off a new computer … well, maybe … which is why the LinkedIn article and Facebook articles were fascinating, as its users are self-reporting the content within their profiles which in turn creates additional targeted marketing of services, job opportunities, etc.

Overall, isn’t this just an extension of data that was already being captured by advertisers? Thinking about subscription data, mail service cards, geo-data based on subscriber’s physical locations, etc, aren’t these digital data points just easier ways to capture a few additional points of information in the same spirit of delivering relevant, targeted advertising and content? Rhetorical question, here. Real questions below:

  1. You’re being tracked. Assuming you’ve accepted this fact, how, if any, do you change your behavior? Could you avoid tracking entirely … don’t forget about your ISP?
  2. Should you be more concerned about sites where you self-report the data that’s used to market/message to you, or the ad networks that track your behavior and dynamically serve up possible relevant content?

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