Big Data Investing

Written By Jason Stutman

Posted August 30, 2013

The focus and attention span of the American public is absolutely laughable.

This week, there were two top-trending stories that demanded the eyes and ears of the United States, with one being vastly more popular than the other.

The first of these stories involved the murder of human beings, a seemingly inevitable international conflict, and the potential for high volatility in global markets.

The other story surrounded a trashy performance by a coked-out and washed up teeny-bopper.

Can you guess which of these stories garnered more national attention?

Blame the Consumer

I recently had an old friend of mine complain to me about the fact that major news outlets feature celebrity gossip on their front pages.

And while I wholeheartedly agree that celebrity gossip isn’t real news, I also know that the mainstream media doesn’t really care about news – it cares about attention and eyeballs.

The fact is, CNN doesn’t really get to choose what goes on its front page: consumer interest is what ultimately dictates that decision.

On Monday, August 26, “Syria” was the single most popular Google search term, with over 500,000 searches.

syria search

Yet a day earlier, Internet users Google-searched the term “Miley Cyrus” an astonishing 10 million times, meaning that the general public was 20 times more interested in raunchy dancing than it was in a potential declaration of war…

miley search

While it’s natural to want to point fingers elsewhere, the true blame for these disproportionate levels of attention remains in the conscious choices of the consuming masses.

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be looking at raunchy videos of Miley Cyrus. If that’s what you want to do, then go ahead – I was equally guilty of seeing what all the fuss was about.

However, if we’re going to be curious enough to pay attention to those kinds of stories, we can’t use major media as our scapegoat.

And this same premise applies to all of our actions on the Internet – you, and only you, are responsible for controlling the information to and from your connected devices.

The Social Scapegoat

You know how when you sign up for a website, you have to click that little box saying you agree to the “terms of service”?

Have you actually ever read any of those things?

How about the privacy policy on your social media accounts – have you ever taken the time to look through all those?

Chances are good that you haven’t…

So when companies take our personal information and sell it to the highest bidder, we have no legitimate defense against those actions. The cold hard truth is that’s 100 percent our fault.

Social media giant Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) has received a ton of flack over its privacy policy since its inception, but we are pointing our fingers in the wrong direction.

Users get all up in arms when they find out their personal data has been sold to advertising companies and handed over to the NSA. Yet most of these users have willingly lied in saying they understand the company’s terms of service. And even for those of us that do understand the implications, we accept the risks regardless.

A Public Reminder

Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan announced yesterday that Facebook will be updating its privacy policies in an effort to clarify how your personal information can be used. Specifically, Facebook will be rewording its Data Use Policy and its Statements of Rights and Responsibilities.

Here are a few important things you need to know:

  • Applications that you install on Facebook have access to your data until you delete them.
  • Even if you’re not actively using Facebook, the company has access to your IP address, mobile number, and physical location if you are logged in on your phone.
  • If you are a parent or guardian of a child, it is implied that you have given them your consent and understand that Facebook can use all of their information.
  • Any information you give to Facebook is considered shared property. This includes your posts, interests, age, gender, networks, and photos as well.
  • Any of this information can be sold to marketers or used to tailor advertisements that you receive, so long as it is not linked to your name.

Big Data Reserves

In addition to protecting our own privacy, the knowledge of Facebook’s terms of service can provide us with important insight on the value of personal data.

Plain and simple: advertisers are willing to pay the big bucks for your personal information. It allows them to focus their campaigns in the most cost-efficient ways possible.

And while big data has recently been described as the next oil due to its economic potential, it is, in fact, far better than oil.

Big data is not subject to the effects of political and environmental turbulence. Additionally, big data is a highly renewable, cheap, and abundant resource.

Just think about it for a second: if we are the oil reserves of data, then we are pumping our personal crude to companies like Facebook at no charge. Facebook receives our data as an organic part of its operations. Likewise, most retailers have massive reserves of relevant data based on customer purchases and activity.

In its raw form, data is too abundant to be valuable. It is only through data management and analysis that data becomes useful. Companies offering analytic services are the oil refineries of big data, and they are where we will see the most demand in the coming future. While raw data is easily accessible, data miners are not.

The data analytics industry reached $5 billion this year, and it is experiencing a compound annual growth rate close to 60 percent. Companies like Facebook will see some supplementary income from their own data reserves, but analysis is where the money will really flow. 

Turning progress to profits,

  JS Sig

Jason Stutman

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