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Will Users Get a Slice of the "Big Data" Pie? 123

curtwoodward writes "Better healthcare, more efficient government, cheaper goods and services — it's all possible in the age of 'big data.' According to the big companies hoping to make a killing off all that information, anyway. But will the people generating that valuable data — Joe and Jane Consumer — ever get a piece of the action? A few startups are trying to establish first-party marketplaces for personal data, compensating users directly for contributing high-quality information about themselves. The World Economic Forum is also involved, hoping that one day, 'a person's data would be equivalent to their money ... controlled, managed, exchanged and accounted for just like personal banking services operate today.' But some entrepreneurs think it might be too late in the developed world, where a consumer's data fingerprint is already very well documented."
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Will Users Get a Slice of the "Big Data" Pie?

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  • by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @03:42PM (#43899171)

    I actually agree with this to an extent and would mod you up had I points.

    A lot of the alleged "intelligence" being pulled out of big data are merely correlational and of a unscientific sampling at that- example the bullshit about which states are unhappiest based on people's Twittering .

    Upon this, as upon the credit default swaps and derivatives, an entire "science" of "big data" will be built. The chief and only certain beneficiaries will be the horseshit factories that churn this out out to the mathematically illiterate and experientially provincial.

    In fact, since the data cannot be assumed to normally distributed and the variables in question independent of anything, including each other, most of mathematics CANNOT be used to analyze this data still less to predict future states of any system reified - and presumed to really exist- from that data.

    Never mind though. Rest assured the asshole quants on working the case even now because while no KNOWLEDGE can be derived from it, a fuck of a lot of money sure can be had.

    Still big data is interesting in some limited context and can be applied in useful ways to the betterment of applications, for instance.

    But that's not what we're all about, is it ? We're all about putting some lipstick on that pig and selling it.

    If you're the sorting type, it's only a matter of timing any Big Data fungus, er./.. I mean companies, as they crop up.


  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @03:54PM (#43899285)

    these companies want your information for free

    I would be willing to give them accurate information from free. That would be better than the inaccurate data they have now. Then they could compete to give me what I want, instead of what they think I want. A few months ago, I shopped online for a minivan. The marketers recognized this almost immediately, and I started getting web ads and even paper mail ads. But most of them were very poorly targeted. They tried to sell me SUVs, which I had no interest in, or vans with insufficient seats (I drive a car pool thrice a week for 7 people). Then a week later, I bought the van. Now, months later, I am still getting the ads for vans. I would be really slick if I could tell them the exact criteria I wanted, the best offer I had received so far, and when is my cut off for a final decision. Then they could tailor their offers to me. They would save marketing dollars, and I would save time and get a better deal.

  • Re:They already do (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @03:56PM (#43899301) Homepage

    Exactly right.

    I worked in Big Data on a project involving medical records. We harvested medical data from millions of unsuspecting patients, thanks to a probably-unread clause in hospitals' privacy policy. Patients never knew that we had their data, and we never actually paid anybody for it, to my knowledge. The end product (which the providing hospitals got free (I think) access to) was a system for making drug research far faster and cheaper, and tracking doctors that had statistically-poor outcomes, and tracking hereditary disease, and even predicting diagnoses. The implications are pretty clear: cheaper and better health care for everybody, at the cost of privacy for medical data (which was anonymized, salted, hashed, encrypted, anonymized again, and stored in a secure cluster, to comply with all the madness of regulation).

    Everything about Big Data relies on the assumption that having more complete information allows a particular business to improve efficiency. For advertising and medicine, this is pretty obvious. Just saying a brand name to the right person at the right time makes a sale. A doctor who can see the symptoms and outcomes of tens of millions of patients can better match a particular patient's case with an earlier example. If that assumption holds true, Big Data is useful.

    This ultimately boils down to the issue of anecdotal vs. statistical evidence. Each individual's information is an anecdote, and holds value to the erson (or people) it relates to, but the anecdote doesn't really provide insight for the future. On the other hand, statistical information is only useful on a large scale with a large sample, collected from people who know little enough about the project to alter its outcome. As you said, the statistical information is worth buying, but anecdotes aren't.

  • by AlphaWolf_HK ( 692722 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @05:23PM (#43900027)

    I don't really think so myself. Efficiency is the key thing to making "stuff" more affordable and therefore more ubiquitous. For example, efficiencies in semiconductor fabrication enabled personal computers to be affordable by the average joe, even really poor people, whereas it used to be only the very rich owned them. The same thing can be said for cars and Ford's original Model T.

    One key part of this is economies of scale, which means you need to sell large quantities of something in order for it to be affordable by the masses. And subsequently, a key part of that is marketing. Marketing is expensive as hell, and goes into the cost of those goods. If big data makes marketing cheaper, then that savings will eventually (though not immediately) make its way to joe sixpack.

    So yes, you as the producer of that data DO benefit, just the benefit isn't obvious.

    For another perspective on that, you ought to read Bestiat's parable of the broken window. Basically, when you can save money on an expense, then that money can go towards something more useful elsewhere. []

    This is exactly how the poor become wealthy. In spite of popular claim, the poor are in fact wealthier than they have ever been. Not by a little, but by a lot. Don't confuse money and income with wealth. By that I mean like what I stated above. It used to be that only the very rich owned cars, later TV's, and then later personal computers, later mobile phones (remember when car phones were neat?). A rich person from yesterday would be envious of the wealth that a poor person has today. []

    TL;DR and summary: I have a hard time seeing big data as being a scam, but rather as being a benefit. You may lose a bit of privacy, but I don't think it's enough to satisfy say a nosy neighbor. And before the accusations fly; no, I'm not a paid shill. Hell, I wish I were, because then I could get paid to muse about something I already believed in anyways.

Trap full -- please empty.