By: Cortland J. Fondon
Data is big business. Personal data has a great economic value that companies are willing to buy, sell, and trade for and convert into profits. Every time a consumer uses their telephone, data is produced, collected, and stored. The odds are that somewhere that data is being mined by a company to either sell it to a business or an advertiser. Deloitte University estimates that ninety percent of the data in the world was created within the past two years. The information gathered includes the products a person likes and has purchased, the movies they’ve attended or googled, what websites they visit and what political candidates they will vote for or if they will even vote.
Companies are purchasing that data so they can cash in. Marketing companies are able to build data bases that store consumer preferences and behaviors so they can be marketed to when online and even through snail mail marketing campaigns. This data allows marketers to only send ads for a new t-shirt to people who have shopped for similar t-shirts in the past. Or only the people who drink a certain brand of coffee will receive advertisements when that brand creates a new flavor. These ads are not on just one website either. The advertisements follow the consumer as they surf the web from one website to another.
This information doesn’t just come from once source either. Data is collected from public records, receipts from mortar and brick stores when credit and debit cards are used, as well as social media, mobile phone usage, and many other sources. The old movie version of the man searching through someone’s garbage to find out that you like Chinese food and have a penchant for spaghetti westerns is a thing of the past. It’s all online, and someone is collecting and collating that data.
Social websites may not charge users to have a profile exhibited, but they make money. One way they make money is someone is in there mining data so that every time a brand name is used, that information is collected and stored. Every time some hits “like”, that data is collected and stored. Then that data is stored. Hundreds of millions of people use some sort of social website, and many use several sites.
When we buy things online, we don’t even have to use the plastic anymore, and certainly no paper money or a check. Some people have a PayPal account and all they’ve ever seen from that account is the goods or the service they get after the transaction (and each transaction creates more data for someone else to gather and sell to someone else).
Thanks to data, companies get richer and richer because the money now spends on advertising can be more targeted than ever before. Spam isn’t necessary to get information about a great sale out to the public. Those ads can go to only the people who have made a purchase before.
Data is currency and companies are taking advantage in ways that couldn’t have been predicted even five years ago.