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Big Data for Good
By: Jessica Cherok
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Facebook, Twitter, Google, and so on all collect data from their users, in part to improve their services, and to sell to advertisers. Big Data is a — sometimes unpleasant — reality of the Internet. But it’s not all about turning a profit.

The notion of only using Big Data for advertising is severely limited. Now, a humanitarian agenda related to data is taking hold. People all around the world are online, providing unprecedented information about their lives. Governments, human service organizations, etc. have all started to recognize the importance of what kind of picture this data could provide. These entities hope to use data to promote open access, legal oversight, gap analysis, and transparency.

The data comes from everywhere: online searches, user-generated content, online transactions, location-based services, and so on. The data can be used to improve public services, show discrepancies in qualities of life, and promote human rights/equal access to technology. And yes, it can still be used for advertising.

While there are still a lot of concerns as to how the collection of data impacts personal privacy, it’s certainly heartening to hear that it isn’t simply about advertisers making money. Consumers already prefer companies who integrate corporate social responsibility initiatives. It’s likely that the same consumers won’t feel quite as uncomfortable with giving personal information when they know it’ll be used for good in addition to advertising.

For more about how Big Data is being used for good, check out a recent United Nations report on its use to eradicate poverty.

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About the Author
Jessica Cherok is an advocate for online privacy, campaigning for ethical data practices and the protection of personal privacy.
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