Big Data and the big march toward our dystopian future

Interconnected web of things : By Pixabay : Used with permission
Interconnected web of things : By Pixabay : Used with permission

Masses of information are being uploaded to the internet on a daily basis. Previously the term big data was reserved for astronomers and scientists collecting petabytes and exabytes of data for analysis. Which is an obviously an unwieldy yet important task.

Now social media sites are being voluntarily flooded with data by users.

Due to the vast amounts of data being uploaded every day it is next to impossible to be aware of everything which effects us.

For some context this article from 2014 claims that, globally, users are uploading ‘1.8 billion images to Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, and WhatsApp every day.’ This is staggering when you consider a lot of those pictures would include EXIF data or other sensitive information.

Although many users may be using poor judgement when uploading photos to the internet. Such as this EMT who tastelessly uploaded a photograph of a murder victim online.

Or it may be embarrassingly revealing, like this woman accidentally published a photo of her chest online when trying to sell some wardrobes.

It isn’t only users where issues could arise. Many google maps images have been revealing or strange. One of the latest was this one which provided digital evidence of infidelity and caused a married couple to get divorced.

Of everything we upload online the ramifications might be more subtle. Such as this example provided by Microsoft’s Scott Charney during a speech in 2012:

Insurance companies are looking at pictures to see if you’ve claimed a disability but you’re playing volleyball … If my friend takes a picture of me playing volleyball and my friend gives it to another friend who posts it on Facebook and then the insurance company goes and gets it from that site they haven’t collected anything from me. So how does notice and choice work in that context?

It is not just the person who took the image, or the person that uploaded it that may be effected.

But we can’t just stop uploading information and being a part of the ‘big data game.’ There is a lot of benefit to be gained from the current systems. Not just the efficiency of ordering online or socialising online, but also the facilitation of key regional and national services.

All of the above examples of images are far too narrow a lens to view big data with. It is much more than that.

Even after acknowledging that I still think it is too easy to get all worked up about advertising corporations or security services peering into our lives too much.

I think the borders between the benefits of big data and the risks of it are broader than we think.

Yes I agree that it is disheartening to think that ‘We have become the product.’

We could be powerful pawns : Pixabay : Used with permissionWe could be powerful pawns : Pixabay : Used with permission

It is just another hierarchical proving ground for people to battle it out and become the most successful product. A market is established and you can choose to take advantage of it, if you can.

Again it is easy to get disheartened when you realise you cannot compete with these women. Or you cannot cultivate and hold an audience in the same way as PewDiePie.

You could say the same about anyone who is at the top of their respective fields.

OK so the more worrying thing is advertisers, insurance companies, employers or hackers knowing too much about you. Well we do have some control over that.

We’re going to have to moderate our behaviour a bit. There are some strange things that people do online that they wouldn’t do in person. We are all new to this though so who can blame us.

On the bright side, now Data Broker is presumably a more lucrative career option. And there is more work for IT and cyber security experts.

I find it mildly frustrating when I keep seeing adverts related to things I have bought, and I receive emails tempting me to make more purchases. It is hard enough to control your online spending among so much temptation.

If I just focus on making creative photographs and sharing them on Instagram that’s a productive, educational, and enjoyable use of my time … but undoubtably too good to be true.

It might be. According to this article:

[with] Instagram, the terms of use are broad enough to allow Instagram to use your photos for free, in any way it likes, and sell the images or give permission to third parties to use your images across the world.

You have to sign away your creations in order to play the game, that’s just the way it is.

Although there is good reason for that. Instagram lets me freely use their service, a service on which I can cultivate an audience and get a great amount of publicity.

Nothing is free; and the capability to compete in the cult of popularity shouldn’t be overlooked.

I think the whole internet is like the wild west at the moment and everyone is struggling to navigate it and test how far you can push it.

After all some hypothetical nefarious CEO who is implementing masses of data collection online is potentially just creating an online environment that he and his family and friends will also need to navigate.

And just like living in the wild west those on the internet can have a short life expectancy, can easily catch viruses, can have their cattle rustled, and will ultimately be judged by their peers.

To me the whole big data thing is just a symptom of the unrelenting march of technological progress and we have to take it all and try to cope.

We weren’t very far into the digital age before William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, and the role playing game Cyberpunk romanticised digitally and technologically advanced societies.

They definitely didn’t depict perfect worlds, but they still captured our imaginations and filled us with hope.

A world full of cool neon cityscapes : By Andrew Haimerl : Used with permission
A world full of cool neon cityscapes : By Andrew Haimerl : Used with permission

I’m greatly anticipating the advancement of the technologically and digitally entangled world. It will be scary, imperfect, thrilling, wasteful, worrying, dangerous and full of new opportunities.

The same could’ve been said for any stage of human technological advancement.

The negatives and positives largely come down to the human element of it all.


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