We’ve accumulated a massive amount of data in the Information Age, which is only increasing as the digital universe grows. By 2020, the digital universe will likely grow to 40,000 exabytes, compared with just 130 in 2005.
Because of the wealth of data that is now available, big data has shifted from a novelty to a necessity for businesses in the last few years. Combing through large datasets to pull out relevant insights has applications in nearly every industry. Businesses that want to stay competitive are using big data to become more efficient, improve their marketing, and save money.
It’s clear now that big data isn’t going away—but is it helping us? Or is it simply adding more complexity into our lives and society overall that we really don’t need? Let’s take a look at some of the good—and bad—big data has done in our lives in the last few years.
Big Data and Online Media
Social media is a great tool for keeping track of friends who live far away, but we’re starting to see the ramifications of big data usage on social platforms. People are tracked through their information and that consumer information is used to determine what kinds of content and advertisements people see.
Now, in some ways, that doesn’t sound too bad. If you’re going to be targeted for advertising, wouldn’t it be nice if those ads were relevant? However, this kind of data collection can lead to things that are darker. Big data and predictive analytics can be used for everything from calculating your credit score to . Because these calculations are often inaccurate on an individual level, this use of big data can hurt individuals and cost them opportunities.
Big Data and Health
One of the best applications for big data is in the healthcare sector, where clinics and hospitals are improving patient care and cutting costs using these tools. Electronic patient records allow the use of predictive analytics to help recognize risk factors, prevent medication errors, and help healthcare organizations become more efficient. Data synced from patients’ fitness trackers and health apps improve physicians’ ability to monitor their patients and encourages people to stick with healthy habits.
Although big data in the healthcare industry has many benefits, there are some downsides as well. Moving to electronic records puts patient data at greater risk for theft from cybercriminals. These breaches are extremely common in the industry, due to the fact that medical records were valued at $50 a piece in 2016. In breaches affecting thousands of patients, there’s more than just privacy at stake—there’s a lot of money on the line.
Big Data and Youth
Young people are growing up in a very different world than their parents did. They have access to all the information they’ll ever need, and the online tools at their fingertips can help them to learn and keep up with what’s going on in the world.
Unfortunately, this information overload can be draining—it’s a lot for kids and teens to handle. They have their attention pulled in so many different directions at once that focus and attention to suffer. Kids also may not have the scepticism and knowledge to check the information they find on the internet for accuracy, and instead, take it at face value. When they’re surrounded by others’ opinions, it’s hard for them to form their own and they may only care about what their friends think of them.
It’s critical that parents and kids adapt and understand the need to use a digital platform and data for what they are—tools. Young people growing up in the digital age need to make a real effort to develop face-to-face social skills and improve concentration to offset the effects of social media and other digital tools.
Big Data: A Gray Area
At the end of the day, it’s clear that big data does have its benefits—but it can also cause great harm. Lives can be changed by a single algorithm. It’s helping us to improve organizations, connect, and streamline our lives—but it also takes away from other areas of our lives and leaves us vulnerable. About 2.5 billion gigabytes of information is being created daily, and we need to think about how we can use it for good. Big data can be a grey area in society, and we need to stay vigilant about controlling our information and keeping ourselves safe.