When Is Big Data Too Big?
How is it possible that some world changing events often go unnoticed even when they happen right in front of our eyes? Well, perhaps not exactly unnoticed, but unappreciated as they transpire and only recognized as momentous after the fact once we stop and look back.
I suppose it is like the old story of the boiled frog. According to the story, if you throw a frog in boiling water he will quickly jump out. But if you put a frog in a pan of cold water and raise the temperature ever so slowly, the frog will eventually cook to death without ever waking up to its imminent peril. This boiled frog story illustrates the vulnerability of remaining complacent in your personal life and/or in the publishing marketplace.
I think big data and the related collection of our personal interests, habits, and buying and reading patterns fall into the frog theory. We have known for years of the collection of this data. Some of us have perhaps been involved in the collection itself. Circulators do it, fulfilment houses do it, direct mailers and publishers do it and have done it to a greater or lesser degree for decades.
One can make the argument that big data fine tunes engagement and gives the people what they want, sometimes before they themselves realize that it is what they wanted. We all love the convenience of being able to find the things we want easily. But have we participated innocently and unknowingly in a worrisome intrusion of our private lives? Big data gives the corporate commerce realm exact information about us, which we have no control over. No way to say, "No, I do not wish to be sliced, diced, and fitted into a data jar of personalized performance." If you have enough data points can it be dangerous, if not today, then in the near Big Brother future forecast cast by George Orwell?