Thursday 31 January 2019

Where Is The Quality Control In Big Data?

This has little to do with retailing so tune out now if you wish, but I have a problem with big data.

Big data is the holy grail of business with companies spending millions to gain information about us. That is essentially what billion dollar operations like Facebook and Google do - finding out your preferences and then “helping” you by directing information that is relevant to your data.

I have just read an article that questions the relevance of different pieces of data that are held about you. Your purchase of a concert ticket for instance (which may not have been bought for your own use) suddenly becomes part of your data pool. Then there is the product you purchased on eBay and wrote a review about. That little action has become part of your data pool and, at least in a digital sense defines you.

Let me explain the problem with a personal example. I use an app called Flipboard for a lot of my news gathering. My Flipboard feed has links with various news services and subject matters. As editor of Victraders, I read a lot of articles about retailing. I also have a passion for watches (usually watches I can’t afford) and Flipboard knows that by storing data on my reading patterns.

So my news feed these days is dominated by articles about retailing and watches. Very clever you might say, but my fear is that the more focused stuff that Flipboard channels to my news feed, the less aware I become about the rest of the world.

In short, I don’t really want somebody else forming an opinion about me based on random data collection. And let’s remember they are doing this for money - big data is big business but where is the quality control? 

This is my data you are playing with and I would like to be more confident that it is painting the right picture.

By Greg Smith