If ever there was a double-edged sword in the tech world, data analysis has to be it.
Unfortunately, the headlines over the last couple of years have shown the public the really quite nasty side to the use of data, with the likes of Data Analytica being taken to task for their exploitation of consumers’ online profiles and buying habits purely for financial gain. Even the Snowden revelations have shown that data and its applications, even with the best intentions – namely global security – can be abused with worldwide consequences.
Yet data analytics is a deeply important part of big business and its use is what allows businesses to thrive. So how can it be utilised without the issue of poor ethics poisoning what is a very helpful tool?
Data analytics does exactly what it says on the tin: it’s taking particular and specific data that has been accrued by a company and utilising it for their needs. This statement may already sound somewhat nefarious, but when used correctly, data is the biggest currency there is. Say, for example, you are a new book company, and success has been had on the back of teen fiction, yet you now wish to branch out into romance. Where would you begin? You would need to look at trends, what authors are popular and what titles will pique the interest of new customers. You could do things the old-fashioned way and take surveys, but this would be long and laborious. Or you could install software that allows the company to collate the data you need to make the most informed decision.
Just typing data analytics into google gives any company a plethora of choices when needing a legitimate platform to deal with their data. It’s such big business now that there are companies whose trade is solely data, how its managed and ascertaining its value. It’s how companies thrive. Even rivals, like Facebook and Google, share data, or extrapolate from the same sources, in a bid to keep their companies relevant. It’s linked with growth, profit and sustainability. Think of that survey I mentioned earlier but now think of it as an invisible stream of noughts and ones travelling across cyberspace in petabyte bundles.
And then there are horror stories, like the scandal with Cambridge Analytica, that bring the data trade into stark relief. My details, and yours, are there for the taking and while many companies strive to keep this data safe, that’s not to say cracks in the system don’t appear. Cambridge Analytica had nothing invested in their work other than making money but it involved selling your data to their clients so the clients could use it to their own ends. It’s rare, and it’s much more rare that such a huge scandal happens at all but this is the risk of having all data ready and waiting.
But the point of this article is not to scare, but to inform. Data analysis is nothing new and will not go away. It is, for the most part, a terrific currency that is used sensibly within business, like sourcing the best material for building a better house. But there’s a good reason why things have tightened with regards to GDPR. And if, for any reason, you are unsure, it’s probably worth finally reading those terms and conditions we all conveniently skip.