Is big data the en­emy?

The Star Late Edition - - BR FOCUS - MICHAEL PEARSE Michael Pearse is head of data at VMLY&R South Africa.

IT’S BEEN out for a few months now but I only re­cently got to watch The

Great Hack, a doc­u­men­tary stream­ing on Net­flix.

The Great Hack ex­plores the many facets of data us­age, pri­vacy, and what the fu­ture of democ­racy may look like if we don’t reg­u­late its us­age.

Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica (CA) found a very prof­itable and some­what harm­ful use for the data that they si­phoned, with­out per­mis­sion, from var­i­ous so­cial me­dia sites.

The show fo­cuses on CA’s in­volve­ment in the 2016 US elec­tions, where it care­fully crafted mes­sag­ing for the Trump cam­paign, and then dispersed it to “per­suad­ables”.

Per­suad­ables was the name given to a set of peo­ple who had not yet made their minds up about who they were go­ing to vote for.

They were iden­ti­fied and tar­geted through sev­eral datasets, in­clud­ing Face­book’s.

CA’s in­flu­ence on the elec­tion is in­ter­est­ing be­cause it’s quan­tifi­able.

It’s ne­far­i­ous, it’s new ter­ri­tory, and while there are a mul­ti­tude of laws glob­ally that pro­tect per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, CA was able to ma­nip­u­late the sys­tem to its ben­e­fit.

There are now peo­ple ad­vo­cat­ing that data rights should be­come the new hu­man rights. You, the in­di­vid­ual, should be able to con­trol your data, who sees it, and how it’s used.

Many so­cial me­dia plat­forms have been im­ple­ment­ing bet­ter se­cu­rity, es­pe­cially when it comes to third-party ap­pli­ca­tions that gather data to help pro­tect those rights.

The prob­lem is, many peo­ple still don’t un­der­stand how much data they’re giv­ing away on a daily ba­sis and how it can be used against them. Data is just a tool.

In my pro­fes­sional life, we’re fo­cused on cre­at­ing work that lives in peo­ple’s lives. That means we use data and great cre­ative to make a per­sonal, pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence to peo­ple on be­half of our clients.

Over the years we’ve worked on a myr­iad cam­paigns that do just that. Some were sim­ply de­signed to com­mu­ni­cate prod­uct ben­e­fits to those peo­ple that need them, oth­ers were de­signed to in­flu­ence pos­i­tive be­hav­iour, like sav­ing wa­ter, or help­ing those in need.

The press­ing ques­tion is: how do we pro­tect our­selves against peo­ple who may use our data for vil­lain­ous pur­poses? The fact is, it’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity to be vig­i­lant.

CA col­lected more than 5 000 in­di­vid­ual data points on each in­di­vid­ual it had in its data­base.

Face­book claims to col­lect way less data than that, which they gather from so­cial plug-ins, Face­book lo­gins, ad­ver­tis­ing an­a­lyt­ics as well as its other com­pa­nies, In­sta­gram and What­sApp.

Shut­ting down your Face­book ac­count would hardly make a dent. The fact is, pro­tect­ing your­self is less about what you do ex­ter­nally than it is about what you do in­ter­nally.

All con­tent is cre­ated to evoke an emo­tion and drive ac­tion, that’s the driv­ing force of ad­ver­tis­ing. The key dif­fer­en­tia­tor is the pur­pose and in­tent be­hind the ac­tion.

Next time you’re pre­sented with a piece of con­tent that evokes a neg­a­tive emo­tion, ask your­self about the pur­pose be­hind it. Is it le­git­i­mate or are you be­ing ma­nip­u­lated?

Be smart. Ask why you feel the way you do, and you’ll have al­ready put your­self in a much safer space.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.