The themes surrounding data are a hot topic in this day and age, and for good reason. One need only walk down the street to see everyone’s head buried in the digital sand that is a mobile device to see that data of all types is the currency of the twenty-first century. Not to mention the plight of the IT professional who we work with daily who is constantly struggling to built infrastructure and processes fast enough to accommodate the amount of data being created every second.
However, beyond the addiction to data and the ever-present need to store and analyze it, in my opinion the biggest concern still resides in how we as a global society seemingly ignore the one major concern that should be on all of our minds: managing and understanding our own data.
Every day, I, like million of others, read and post things to social media. And whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, the list goes on, there is an upside to the platforms: I get to stay in touch with friends and family who I may not otherwise get a chance to see regularly. I view and post photos, I read about the exciting careers of my friends, and feel a sense of connectivity to the world … just like everyone else.
The question becomes, what does that connectivity ultimately cost? I have often said that social media is one of the weirdest inventions of all time: one that circumvents human nature and our evolutionary trait of distrust of strangers or the unknown. A perfect example is this: if someone on the sidewalk walked up to any one of us and asked deeply personal questions regarding anything from who our friends and family are, to what our religious or political beliefs are, even to what music or books we like, or where we tend to eat or travel, I know that at least for myself the number of expletives that would be pouring out of me would be nothing short of record setting.
But every day, we as a society do exactly that—we tell the machines everything about us. And it doesn’t end there. Paired with our fixation on information, also comes our addiction to convenience. I merely have to say the words “Amazon” or “Uber-Eats” to make my point here. And with convenience again comes the sharing of data.
So, what is my point in all of this (other than sounding like an old man ranting about the new world order)? Simply put, we all need to be aware of and better manage all of our data as individuals to understand the consequences of our actions.
From IT and corporate security, to personal security as it relates to identity theft, bank and credit card fraud, and more—every single thing we post can be evaluated and used against us. Now, I know that may sound borderline paranoid, but let’s not forget the things that we all see in the daily news every day. Just this week, Facebook is once again in the news for leveraging its own data against competitors—a corporate way of literally weaponizing data for profit.
And to put this into context as far as the amount of data that Facebook currently has, as the world’s largest social network it owns the data of 2 billion+ people on the planet. That translates to the sad reality of Facebook knowing everything about more than one quarter of the earth’s population. Not to mention that doesn’t include instagram and WhatsApp. And let’s not forget the fact that Cambridge Analytica was accessing the data of millions of people through loosely defined developer access.
In short, if this article comes across as if I’m trying to be inflammatory just to cause a little panic, I’m okay with that. Because that’s what this should read like. As mentioned before, our world has become a scary place when it comes to our cyber-selves. The crimes associated with personal data from corporations using it to manipulate the public, to global politics, and more—every piece of data we create needs to be thought through, and every piece of data we consume needs to be looked at with a critical eye.
Our data-driven life is not going to end. And to be clear, I’m more technophile than most. I’m not trying to disparage technology, its uses, or its benefits. What I’m trying to convey is that there is a responsibility that comes with the power of data. And whether that’s corporate infrastructure to properly secure data and utilize data in an ethical way, or for individuals to be mindful of what data they create and share—the responsibility ultimately falls on all of us.