How Big Data is Changing the World

While reading “The Data That Turned the World Upside Down” by Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus it was scary learning how much big data companies know about us and how specific they can get when targeting individuals. Before I was aware of how companies trace what we search and target ads based on our online search.  This happens to me almost every day when shop online.  Just recently I was on Urban Outfitters and the very next day see an ad from them and the specific clothing item I was looking at. I have become accustomed to this and don’t think much of it and most of the time ignore the ads.  However it is scary how big data companies like Cambridge Analytica are using Kosinski’s work. Michal Kosinski is a psychologists and data scientist who created the MyPersonality App that allowed users to fill out different psychometric questions. These questions include the “Big Five” personality questions (openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neurotics). It seemed harmless because users could opt-in to share their Facebook profile data with researchers. It’s pretty amazing how it started on Facebook and millions of people freely revealed their results.

oie_ae7bpyt4ytmlOverall, I think it’s pretty cool and yet extremely  frightening that researchers are able to pick out personality traits and know about the individual without actually talking to them. Kosinski created a “people search engine and he started to recognize the potential – but also the inherent danger of his work” (Grassegger and Krogerus ). I never really thought about companies like Cambridge Analytica and how their purpose is  innovative political marketing, by evaluating people’s personality from their digital footprints. It’s really scary that Cambridge Analytica has “profiled the personality of every adult in the United States of America 220 million people” (Nixon). It is pretty crazy how specific you can get when searching for a specific person, for example you can buy information where Polish women live and specifically target them. To a certain extent, we have to think is this crossing the line? Do we have any privacy online? I think it is important for people to know they are leaving behind a digital footprint and to be aware of it. Big data companies can be extremely helpful for companies to market their products. However, they can also be extremely dangerous with how much information big companies gather about us and how little privacy we have online.


Big data analytics can be very powerful and the information companies have can impact what consumers buy. The idea of “psychometrics” is very innovative and different. It’s going to change the way companies market their product. It is going to be easier for companies to put out specific ads for consumers. We are moving towards psychometrics and companies will be able to create personality profiles for individuals. We are moving towards a new form of communication and the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Alexender Nix even says “my children will never, ever understand this concept of mass communication.” This just shows how much marketing has changed; we started with mass media with television and magazine ads. Now we live in a world where companies know every detail of our life and are able to target specific ads. This is very important for digital marketing because its going to change the way companies market their products.  Overall, I think it is important for the consumer to be aware of their digital footprint and be aware of what big data companies are doing.


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