It’s so easy to get lost in data. It’s everywhere; from the moment we wake up in the morning and check our phones, to the apps we open and use, the websites and places we visit, the transactions and tweets and Facebook posts we write, emails we send, searches we do. Everywhere we go, science tells us, we leave a little bit of our microbiome (the microbial communities that live on and around our bodies) and, increasingly, a digital “microbiome” as well; the collection of data that we generate as we live our daily lives.
As I think about these ideas—a human and data signature!—I feel a simultaneous sense of wonder and unease. I feel wonder at the immense complexity of our existence, and at the way the human body masks that complexity with apparent simplicity. To me, that seems like a blueprint for how we should think about data: complexity masked in simplicity.
The problem is, sometimes that simplicity can lead us astray. I talked about some of that unease, and some of the challenges of “big” and “little” data, in my TED@IBM talk last year, and in a companion piece published shortly after entitled “What do we do with all this big data?”
The challenges are twofold: how do we extract insight from data, while preserving (and nurturing) the trust of the people we serve? I will tell you that as I sat in the audience at TED@IBM this year(along with some of the other TED speakers from last year—Kare Anderson, Bryan Kramer, Erick Brethenoux, Tan Le and others), I felt a sense of relief. Part of that relief, some of us joked, was not being onstage this year (it is a very intense experience), but the major part was that the research we were hearing about was simultaneously ground breaking and deeply principled.
The theme this year was “Necessity and Invention,” and here are just a few of the topics presented:
All of these examples, and so many others that day, show us how data can be used to improve the daily lives of the billions of people on our planet. At the same time, it can also reveal new business models and inventions that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago: a stock market for sneakers? Context-aware privacy technology? Computers with a sense of humor?
What energizes and comforts me as I think about all the invention around us is that the relative cheapness of processing and the availability of data has made it possible for so many people to radically rethink our world. And as great power confers great responsibility, it also requires that we think deeply and with integrity about how we use data, how we collect it and process it, and whether those practices engender the trust of those we interact with.
I explored this in a research report called The Trust Imperative: A Framework for Ethical Data Use earlier this year, and it is one of the main issues on my mind these days. As predictive analytics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence move into the mainstream, the implications (and capabilities) of data will become even more urgent and complex.
And there you have yet another aspect of necessity and invention: the need to think about how we mine, refine and use data—one of the most critical raw materials of our digital age.
Susan Etlinger’s thoughts on the recent TED@IBM event on data.
The implications of Facebook’s new range of buttons.
Companies need to look beyond communication to earn consumer trust.
How much further can we take the “customer profile?”
What you need to know about how companies can use your data to discriminate against you.
What you should keep in mind when evaluating your company’s social business maturity.
What both consumers and businesses can learn from the Ashley Madison cheating website data breach.
The way Pinterest discloses its data use practices is a great example for brands.
The essential guidelines all businesses need to follow for the ethical collection, use and sale of data.
Was Twitter wrong for taking down “Politwoops?”
The Apple CEO delivered a scathing critique of companies misusing customer information.
If customer experience is based upon data, the first step is earning their trust.
The implications of Twitter turning off the tap for one of its biggest data partners.
Why the competition between the big marketing cloud vendors shouldn’t be the focus of their clients.
A look at the digital ethics and privacy conversations from this year’s SXSW conference.
A new law banning the collection of personal information in South Africa could influence legislation in other countries as well.
This year’s results have troubling implications for the technology industry.
A look at what we give up and gain when we allow our lives to be turned into sources for data.
Here are five data questions about the Super Bowl that we’d like the answer to.
Highlights of what the Big Boulder Initiative accomplished in 2014, and its plans for the new year.
This document is just a first step toward setting context for the many disruptions of ubiquitous and complex data, but it includes preliminary frameworks to help us examine these issues in more detail.
In my last post, I discussed some themes for 2015, one of which was an imperative for us as an industry to get serious about digital ethics.
I’m not generally a fan of annual predictions; they always remind me of a carnival in which you’re encouraged to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”; you almost never win the giant teddy bear.
During the past several years, the television industry has changed dramatically, spurred by device proliferation, changing distribution methods, and the increasing popularity of social media.
By now, you’ve probably heard that data scientists at Facebook recently published a study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science…
Late last year, I started wondering about social media command centers. Salesforce had launched one, as had Brandwatch, but I wondered: were they really still relevant? Were companies investing in command center deployments, or had interest subsided since their heyday in 2010?
In the past year, social data has continued to wend its way into organizations of all types, from large enterprise to small business to media and entertainment and the public sector. We’ve seen use cases far past marketing into product and service quality, entertainment programming, customer service, fraud detection and a host of other examples.
I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about social data: what it is, what it isn’t, how to measure it, where it’s going.
It’s a nightmare scenario. You get a frantic text or call from a co-worker that someone tweeted a tasteless joke or profanity from your corporate Twitter account.
Everyone talks about the challenges of measuring the revenue impact of social media, but how are top brands actually doing it? And are they successfully measuring ROI?
The run-up to Facebook’s IPO reminds me a bit of a wedding: everyone’s attention is on the big day (expected to be Friday May 18), without much regard for the weeks, months and years afterward.
Even though the topic of social media ROI may sometimes seem like an endless game of Whack-a-Mole [see previous post], there’s plenty of evidence to suggest we’re inching ever closer to accountability.
Wherever I go, the question I hear most often is this: “What is the ROI of social media?” Even though most companies we’ve surveyed have a brand monitoring solution in place, few have yet to crack the measurement code. It remains one of the most stubborn challenges for the social business.