Big Data: 3 Reasons to “Get Over It!”

All types of systems exist, and they were developed for the primary purpose of showing something that needed to be discovered or verified, or have its actions revealed.  After specializing in data management for a long time, I am not surprised by the latest data disclosure about the government collecting any type of data on its citizens.

Before technology, written scrolls or lists were made throughout history.  Since its development, technology has captured data in files and all types of databases (hierarchical, relational and now Big Data). This knowledge has been used for good and evil.  The following three reasons highlight why you should “get over it.”

Data will always be collected.  Famously, Scott McNealy, tech CEO of Sun Java, said in 1999 that we have no privacy and we should get over it as highlighted in this Wired magazine article.  His comments at the time brought questions and outrage from privacy groups.  History shows that data will always be collected; now our technology just makes it easy to get Big Data together to analyze, identify, and document the answers to everyone’s questions.

Your data is already everywhere anyway.  The modern Big Data technology world has made it faster and easier to collect data.  From the first government census in 1840 to transactions being executed on your phone, your data is everywhere and for the most part all this Big Data makes your life easier:  preapproved for a loan, coupons for your favorite sushi place, price promotion for your favorite groceries, High Occupancy Vehicle lanes collecting toll charges automatically. Your world activities produce Big Data.  Society, business and government use this Big Data to improve services, project growth for widening the expressway, or for plain and simple business profitability.  Not collecting and using Big Data would mean not improving our lives with a resource that is available already.

Be more scared about the “other data aggregators.”  Going to the Department of Motor Vehicles you can see an example of our government in action.  While I don’t think the DMV’s systems are as prioritized as the other government systems in the news lately, I have to wonder.  The bigger issue is all the Big Data that you create in your daily lives is being collected and sold by third party data aggregators.  As I wrote in last year’s blog, Leading Edge Business Analytics, which referenced Nate Silver’s election prediction and the PBS 2004 special “The Persuaders,” you need to understand that every piece of data that can be known about your life is being sold, augmented, and put into a Big Data system somewhere.  Every piece of data possible is being sold–from Google harvesting data from searches and from every email through your Gmail system as highlighted in this Gawker article.  All your online transactions, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, and many other social websites are harvesting information, selling your data, and making billions in profits.  Both political parties use Big Data in all their election efforts and are the biggest data aggregators and analysts in an effort to understand your views and voting criteria issues.

There is even a new movie about all these Big Data aggregators and the related privacy issues called “Terms and Conditions May Apply” that details these data harvesting activities and privacy issues. (You can see a preview by clicking here. Understand when you don’t pay money for something on the web, the information you input into the web is the virtual money payment you are providing for the service.  As you type, post, poke, and update items on the web you are probably making money for an internet company somewhere.

Expect more Big Data to be collected from every piece of technology in your life.  Monitor it, embrace it, know it, and get over it unless you don’t want any more promotional coupons, the highway to be expanded, or your politician to know your important voting topics.  Determine the Big Data your activities generate, lists you are on, the transactions you do, and know that the data will be used for good and evil.  Soon the refrigerator will be scanning your food telling you the items that are going to spoil, making your grocery list, and emailed it to your phone so you remember to buy milk.  It will also inform you and your insurance company that you should eat more vegetables. Those Big Data items and big Brother issues are both a good thing and a bad thing.  Until you’re ready to decline the terms and conditions of our digital lives, I recommend that we all, as Scott McNealy said, “Get over it.”


Dave Beulke is an internationally recognized DB2 consultant, DB2 trainer and education instructor.  Dave helps his clients improve their strategic direction, dramatically improve DB2 performance and reduce their CPU demand saving millions in their systems, databases and application areas within their mainframe, UNIX and Windows environments.

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