Companies Collect Data!


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Globalization and technology developed at a rattling rate make our lives more comfortable but we are stranded in a tighter area in our daily lives, on the contrary. Future might be ahead that is worse than Georger Orwell’s “Big Brother”. This time private companies trace us more than the government does, ranging from GSM operators to web search engines, credit card data and survey forms.

In the era of marketing, advertising and consumpiton, it does not matter so much to get data collected about us. The heart of the mattter for the companies is what they could do with those data, how they could increase their sales and forecast future.

Data mining is a method became very popular in 1990s, which aims to reach optimum efficiency in planning and organization thru collecting data from gigantic databases and determining specific trends, allowing to forecast future. Having used artificial intelligence, this method is based on analysing “significant” data and trends by computers, which takes many years for an ordinary man to collect those data. In the beginning such significant data seem “irrelevant”, but following computer analysis, it could appear as “relevant” by comparing two parameters. For example, according a survey run in a supermarket chain, families buying nappies tend to buy beer as well. So, a promotion campaign is held with the concept of “Party Time for the Families with Kids”.

Why is it so important to connect medicine and insurance, public and private sector, automobile demand graphics with avocado and banana curves? Before answering this question, it would be better to check how such a thing could be possible.

The key concept of data mining is to purge specific data series by sorting and comparing among gigantic databases. Despite “Merge and Purge” and “Database Enrichment” methods remained out of fashion as compared to “data mining”, data could be really transformed into valuable information and automized easily.

It is not easy to set up such huge databases. Many legal and illegal companies and people appeared to collect databases, especially e-mails currently. Metromail is one of the largest companies collecting mail addresses, currently collecting and selling e-mails, established in 1948, hiring 3000 people with a sales turnover of over USD 281 million. It “hunts” data researching from different resources ranging from state records to surveys, which also include income, householding, marital status, age groups and even the team supported. So Metromail is the no 1 company as required specific name-address info. On the other hand, it has a gigantic database continously developing with data about almost every house in the USA . In addition to such legal companies, there are also pirate ones producing data for pirate CDs.

Cookies innocently embedded in our computers, security cameras tracing us on the streets, retina scanners at airports, mobile phone call centers recording what we said for us, machines recording what we wrote and tools registering our actions…It is a world that do not care about us, but our data.

There is a new possible future ahead in case there is not a social consciousness formed to pass the overseas laws protecting invidual privacy. That future is “profitable” for companies, “secure” for states but “nightmarish” for us, ordinary people.

Emre Kizilkaya is a journalist. He writes articles for a communication technologies magazine, tr.


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