Using the most basic of Content Analysis techniques (looking at my BBC news app for the past seven days) one can readily deduce that Data is a currently high on the news editors’ agendas.
On the 19th November the lead news article was based on the recent Care Quality Commission report, an interactive map allowing people in England to compare GP surgeries. Upon entering your postcode you can now check the level of care in your local surgery.*
On 23rd November the government announced that the plan for ISP to provide consumer IP data was back on the political agenda in an attempt to counter the threat of terrorism, cyber-bullying and internet-assisted child-suicide. All massively important topics for which data is seen as part of the solution.
Yet one of news articles to cause most reaction was the launch of the YouGov Consumer Profiles web app.** Amongst other things the data available within the app concludes that Kate Bush fans enjoy Thai food, support ethical practices, yet (shock-horror) were in fact slightly right wing. (Visit the official Kate Bush fan page on Facebook to see further examples of the outrage caused by over-indexing variables.)
And so the question, what does this mean? What does this tell us about how the 21st century masses are behaving?
For a start everyone is becoming far more familiar with empirical evidence-based arguments. Great. Shouldn’t this mean that we are relying less on the subjective opinions and intuition of the news agenda-setters and more on facts, figures and results?
But it also shows us that people are becoming increasingly conscious of the plethora of data that is available about them. And this is where as “Data Professionals” we have a role to play.
Every week at Acxiom we are questioned or even challenged on privacy, security or consumer rights. Therefore each and every one of us needs to be watertight in our responses. We’re not talking about having completed the right security training modules (which we all have, otherwise our internet connections are switched off) but understanding philosophically why data is here to help the modern consumer.
With all of the gadgets, media and services now available, time is often described as the most precious asset for the 21st century. We have more to do, more that we want to do and more that we can do, but time stays the same. Data allows us to optimise our time. It means that we spend less time searching on the internet (as Google understands us better), less time looking for special offers for Christmas presents (we’re all waiting for our personal algorithm-based offers from our favourite stores) and if we’re truly organised we’ll never miss a friend’s birthday again (posting Happy Birthday on timelines DOES count as a personalised greeting in my book…).
So it’s time for all of us to go forth and communicate that there is nothing to be scared about within the world of data. The connections which exist based on our behaviour can only help us*. And if you ever meet an Acxiom associate at your Christmas events be prepared to hear this line with some passion.
*Check the effectiveness of your local GP surgery here:
**See what kind of consumer you are here:
***Sure, if you’re a tax-dodger or drug baron you might not be happy about the data explosion, but hey, you have to roll with the punches on that one.