Com0011-521 Blog Post #4 – Big Data Used Against Us


Ever since Google burst on to the market, the way companies have interacted with us has changed.  For the most part it’s been beneficial to us.  Companies are now sending messages that seemed geared specifically to each of us as individuals.  It’s when these companies use these new tools against us that a problem surfaces.

That’s the gist of a talk by Kate Crawford a principal at Microsoft Research.  She details ways in which large companies can use big data to discriminate against people.  From the article at Ars Technica,

“In the old days, if both of those customers saw the six percent offer on a billboard and walked in the bank to apply, the bank couldn’t legally offer the customer from the bad neighborhood the higher interest rate based on where they live. But with online targeting, the bank can make sure the bad-neighborhood customer never sees the offer, period, avoiding the perceived “risk” altogether.”

At the moment, there’s not much in the way to stop a company from misusing that data.  A consequence of using the technology that Google and others provide is that you give up information about yourself. That data is even more precise with each new social media tool we use.

There is always the possibility of Canada’s privacy czar stepping in and intervening.  However, that may require someone to fall victim to this misuse of their information in the first place.  Not exactly convenient for that person.

Perhaps another solution would be to petition Google, Facebook and others to be more judicious on who they give our data to.  They have been receptive before to public outcries over privacy issues before.

I’m honestly curious.  Is it possible to stop companies from using your data against you while still giving them the freedom to understand you?  Thoughts?

Raffaele Furgiuele

5 thoughts on “Com0011-521 Blog Post #4 – Big Data Used Against Us

  1. So going over this post, I agree with Raffaele, on the point of that ever since Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn came about, they can be used for good in the sense of promoting a business or event, but on the other hand the same social media tools that we use to help us, does harm us when it comes to applying for a job. Even though you or I may have our setting on “private” on these social media sites, they aren’t private because companies that are hiring prospective employees can still get access to your information. For example: I googled my name the other day, and found some things that I wouldn’t want a prospective employer to find such as: a twitter feud I had with a classmate of mine.

    However, I would like to comment on the question that Raffaele asked which is:
    “Is it possible to stop companies from using your data against you while still giving them the freedom to understand you?” and my opinion to this would be NO, it would not be possible to stop companies from using your data against you, while still giving them the freedom to understand you, I say no because companies are not just interviewing you, they are interviewing thousands of candidates for a position, and I find that them googling you up to be a tool that can help them narrow down those 1000 candidates to the best 50 candidates suited.
    I also believe that companies would never accept the idea of saying that “No, we should not be using an prospective employees data/information.” I find that companies like to do their research on you so that they can tailor their questions specifically to just you. And that is why I don’t think it is possible to stop companies from using your data SADLY…

    – Saber Nawaz (COM0011-521)

  2. Raff, I enjoyed the “light” approach you’ve taken in this post. Your tone is not one of seriousness or aggressiveness and it made me want to comment – specifically from the manner in which you ended it with questions. Quite frankly, I think we divulge far too much information about ourselves although it may be somewhat difficult to avoid. Make you wonder why we do this???

  3. The digital trail has been a concern of mine for a long time. Even as I work towards a social media certificate, I wonder if I am making my self more vunarable to the big data banks.

    Perhaps the Eagles foreshadowed Facebook, Twitter and Google with their song Hotel California, “you can checkout anytime you want, but you can never leave.”

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