So what is big data? This is what companies know about us. Aggregated from numerous sources and analyzed for patterns. Big data is what helps banks predict and flag credit card frauds. Little data on the other hand is what we know about ourselves. “What we buy. Who we know. Where we go. How we spend our time. We’ve always had a sense for these things — after all, it’s our lives. But thanks to the combination of mobile, social, and cloud technologies, it’s easier than ever to gain insight into our own behavior” writes Mark Bonchek in this HBR article.
Mark goes on to explain how Big and little data differs :
Focus – big data is for taking corporate goals ahead, while Little data helps achieve individual goals
Visibility – Individuals cannot see Big data; Little data they can. Technically Corporations are not supposed to see Little data but as we now know (the article was written in 2013) they are tracking personal data, often without permission, regularly.
Control – similarly Big data is controlled by Corporations and can be accessed by individuals by permission and vice versa – this has now become a one way traffic.
A lot of personal data has been aggregated from the social media and used for retargeting not only ads but information, often fake and manipulative to reinforce narrow ideas and helped forces to keep individuals within a information bubble.
However Individuals can make good use of Big data in terms of prescriptive health advice. In a way the Amazon recommendation engine is a good example of your personal data being meshed with big data to generate recommendations.
There are other positive usage of the Big Data / Little Data combine – Mark writes : “This connection between Big and Little Data applies in other areas as well. Consider the smart thermostat made by Nest, which automatically adjusts itself to your preferences and behavior. A utility company could connect the Little Data from Nest devices to the Big Data from its power grid. Nest customers could then benchmark their energy usage against others in the community. Furthermore, the sense of shared purpose and the greater transparency and control give individuals greater incentive to share information and participate in energy saving initiatives.”
There is a lot at stake. Huge progress and personalised services and on the other hand invasive corporations and surveillance states. The choices for protecting your own data, the little data would need to be exercised soon.
Are we ready? Am I?