Social Media and Big Data: Recognizing the Benefits and Dangers

Social media makes big data collection dangerously easy. By the end of this year, there’ll be nearly a billion people on this planet that actively use social networking sites. There are 48 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every single minute. There are 200 million Tweets posted every day. The average Facebook user creates 90 pieces of content each month. Back in the year 2000, about 100 billion photos were shot worldwide, but only a minuscule proportion of them were actually uploaded online. In 2010, only on Facebook, in a single month, 2.5 billion photos were uploaded. The internet and its content expands at a shocking rate, creating an almost unlimited data base. The more we share, the more data we produce. Consequently, the more data we produce, the more scientist study and understand us.

A New Age of Big Data

First of all, we reveal more information online about ourselves than ever before. As a result, we create an archive of information about ourselves that no other generation has ever done before. This means that we do not know the possible effects of this behavior. According to CMS Wire, over the past two years we collected 90 percent of the available data in the world. Almost 80% of that data came from social media. Furthermore, big data seems to only be a major concern of those from older generations. Young social media users do not seem to recognize the danger in mass data collection. They explain that they have nothing to hide. This makes it all the more important for us to educate users. Users should know who has access to this online data and what it can be used it for.

Most noteworthy, scientists have developed mechanisms where they can quite accurately predict things like your political preference, gender and intelligence. Due to online analysis of Facebook likes, webpage activity and search history, scientists have developed various algorithms. These algorithms can even predict how well you work in teams or even if you have ever been pregnant. Your internet activity is not as private as you think it is. The data provided by internet activity by itself might not tell much. However, when compared with data from millions of other users it tells much more. Once analyzed it produces patterns. This synergy provides a new source of data.

Why Does it Matter?

So what are the dangers? Why does it matter if a scientist can tell what kind of person I am? First of all, the most immediate danger comes from hackers. Internet terrorists have become real threats to society. Your personal information and activity in the hands of the wrong person can lead to abuse. One can use personal data against you in court hearings or in the political realm. Big data sold to companies is also dangerous. Consequently, companies would have information on their applicants beyond their application. As a result, this information would give companies the ability to discriminate job applicants due to bad health or reckless financial history.