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