The Ethics of Data, Visualized [INFOGRAPHIC]

Big data sparked public interest in the U.S. beginning with the NSA scandal. Suddenly, it was mass knowledge that not only could the government, or any entity, collect your social media, email or cell data, but they could use it against you. This concept certainly isn’t brand new, and it certainly was occurring long before the NSA’s data collection and use methods were revealed. In fact, social media platforms like Facebook are explicit in their Terms of Service as to whom your on-platform activity belongs. And, if you think it is you, you are wrong. 

Disable cookies from your browser and you won’t be able to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google and many otherwise free digital services. That’s because these platforms are not free. We all exchange our data for the service, and in turn receive more targeted ads based on who our friends are, what we say to them in email, who we retweet most often and what keywords are typically found in our digital resumes. For the most part, this type of data collection and use is relatively innocent. No one is forcing you to click a banner ad, though you are more likely to click it if it is relevant to you – meaning that third-party companies pay high dollar to the likes of platforms like Google, which can segment and target niche audiences based on first-party data that platform has received. 

In all, the biggest problem with data collection for most people is this: they didn’t know it was happening. For better or worse, understanding around what type of data is being collected and how it is being used is relatively low. And, because of this, many companies easily sneak data collection methods into Terms of Service agreements most users never read, or wouldn’t fully understand if they did. What we are lacking here in transparency and accountability in data collection and use. And this is a big deal, because much of this data is personal, non-anonymous and can be hacked, stolen or used to discriminate against particular groups or segments. 

Here, we break down how all the world feels about big data, the internet and how these two entities are affecting worldwide privacy and security. Turns out, most people are still are on the fence when it comes to how they feel about data collection and use. It’s time, then, that the data champions of the world, the ones doing it for the right reasons and in the right ways, help our fellow comrades off that fence, arm them with the intelligence to combat unethical data collection and use, and move forward as a collective, using data to drive personal satisfaction and business results alike. 

Download hi-res version here.

Infographic design by Chelsea Carlson