Beyond Cambridge Analytica

26 Mar 2018

Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data have made headlines during the last few weeks. I wrote about this already a year ago for TelecomAsia (read here). Information on most concerns and issues were available already then. The only real new piece of information is the role of another Cambridge University academic project that used Facebook’s data and help to develop analytics models. The discussion now focuses on one case and one scandal, but it is worthwhile to look at what is really going on in the data business.

The issues with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook are really only the tip of the iceberg. I would actually like to summarize some other important trends and issues I have also written about earlier that have an important impact on data business:

  1. There are hundreds or thousands of other companies that collect, trade and utilize consumer data, people don’t even know most of them, and they haven’t had real opportunities to check on their data or delete it. You can see more examples in the following links.
  2. Now companies have mainly used people’s data for their own purposes, but we are probably entering an era where people can really use their own data and it will enable them to do and make things. This will disrupt models in the data business - read more here.
  3. More distributed models (e.g. blockchain) are coming to the internet, not only for finance, but also for data services, and they can give data ownership really back to consumers - read more here.
  4. AI has been a tool for those who own a lot of data, but in the future consumers can have their own AI that can help them; it will no longer be an internet company that just tries to optimize their own things for you, but your own AI to help you to find relevant things - read more here.
  5. These more local AI solutions also enable new services like personal assistants and augmented reality and intelligence in many devices - read more here.
  6. We also have the discussion about privacy and ethics for data and AI, including new regulation - read more here.

We can see that the data business is becoming more and more important all the time. As it is said, software ate hardware, but now data is eating software. At the same we have many different trends and new innovations in the data business. It is not only about having even bigger giants that have all data in their clouds, but we also have totally opposite development to solutions where people can manage and utilize their own data.

See Also

Trump and Cambridge Analytica: big data for marketing messaging


It is hard for many people and also for companies to follow all these developments. As we now were able to see, it took over a year until the mainstream media really realized the importance of the Cambridge Analytica case. When we talk about new data models and technologies, it is even harder to explain and get attention for them. But my prediction is that we start to see quite many new innovative startups in this area in this and next year. It is happening already especially for finance and healthcare data.

Of course, this big change won't happen overnight. There will be data giant companies for a long time. That’s why it is definitely important to develop people’s awareness, legislation and transparency surrounding how data is collected and used. We can also say many people have been extremely naive by using, for example, all kind of fancy apps that “tell your special skills based on your first name” or “find an optimal profession based on your profile photo” - and that the same time the user gives this app the rights to collect all his or her Facebook data.

The most important thing is to find the right balance between people and companies that use the data. People must realize, if they get something free, there are other models to do business, and nowadays it is often data. But companies must also understand they cannot just utilize data without clear value to the user. They must be also transparent, what and how they conduct business. As I wrote in a linked article above, data must be an enabler to people, not only a way for companies to exploit people. It will be a long journey to this new more balanced data business, but we can say the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data case have been a wake up call for many people and this will accelerate the change.

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