I am shocked, shocked that there is big data going on in this Establishment

I am shocked, shocked that there is big data going on in this Establishment

“So, the NSA has been snooping the data at most of the big Silicon Valley tech titans, who snoop the data of most of the planet. The former is looking for bad guys, the latter are looking for customers.

What’s the diff?

What cracks me up is the outrage. It reminds me of Captain Renault’s great line outside Rick’s Cafe the night he shut it down.

How did we get to this place?

Data used to be such a hard and fast thing. Name, address, and social security was plenty to get a verification going. It worked well for high stakes actions like getting a mortgage, a car loan, a college education… and it still does. The titans of big data and credit have built tremendous businesses based primarily on that data. But it’s getting tired, and the options for passing that data between them is getting more finite with every day.

However, a new generation is beginning to emerge. One without much credit, poor job prospects, shared homes, and many other traits that make them look like ghosts on paper. How to get a read on these guys? All they have are mobile phones and social networks which allow them temporary access to some of the things their parents owned (this is currently called sharing). Well, Zuck and the devil (not to be confused) both had it figured out: vanity is the world’s favorite sin. ….(i acknowledge the irony, as the guy writing a blog ;). The biggest affect of being mobile and social is the astounding amount of data that it throws off.

Facebook and the rest have masterfully used that data to imply the best ad to suggest a user, the best hotel in the area, the best gift for someone. Even the best match for you to date, lend a car, share a spare room, or walk your dog. That intelligence has gone way beyond the stale cookies of the online world; while not knowing your name, the parameters captured on mobile can include location, screen size, device type, apps open etc. Add to this what users willingly volunteer in their posts, comments, likes, reviews and you have a treasure trove of behavioral data to crunch. I know this from my experience at Mojiva, where we process 35,000 ads per second and analyse 1.5 terabytes of data a day.

Now how is the government supposed to resist all that?

And so now… the Outrage?

So while we as a younger planet willingly volunteer all kind of vanity data in an effort to look good, somehow some of us get outraged when it’s used for national security instead of recommendations for underwear.

I imagine the elders want to remain in the hard data world, and may react negatively to all this digital spy-craft. They own the assets – and the debt to support it – and their address, social security and FiCa will forever be their go-to data. For this group, railing on the government for something they don’t yet understand (like why would anyone want to know my behavior and preferences) is pretty logical, if not up to date. And on the other side of the spectrum, any mobile social junkie with 33 dukedoms on Yelp and a 800+ score on TrustCloud can’t possibly say “my public data has it’s limitations” … it’s all opt in and public anyways.

And there is the generational disconnect that conceals an emerging opportunity.

Those that were and still are accustomed to hard and real data as the one-and-only arbiter of trust-worthiness are going to quickly pass from majority to minority. You can’t look at this slide from Mary Meeker on how we spend our time and debate the effect of mobile. People are choosing to spend their time in places that throw off more data and indicators for the new world. And while the soft data from mobile and social are not yet enough to fully vet “worthiness”, those that recognize leverage of the combination of the two will prevail in the next chapter of “data as indicator”.

Let’s just call it like it is, Rick

Despite all the protests, we’re getting to the cusp of a new world, where hard data (FICA, mortgage, etc.) is going to meet with softer, more contextual data (mobile, social) to form new benchmarks of trust in our world. I suspect Zuck and the devil will prevail on this one, if not together then in league. And we’ll come to accept our digital behavior as an important component of who we are. Our mortgages as well as our underwear selections will be smarter because of it.

Get over it people. Rick already has.


I mentor two kids and several entrepreneurs. Similarities are coincidental.