Top Tech News You Need to Know: Terms of Service Jokes, Government Overreach and More

Did the mid-term elections capture your fancy and attention this week? Yea, us too, and as a result, some pretty fascinating and need-to-know big data news slipped right past us. 

Of course, only for a while. Below, this week’s top big data and tech news stories you need to know before you sign off for the weekend. We promise, no politics involved.

Survey Finds Big Data is Now Mainstream

Big data has officially gone mainstream. In a study conducted by NewVantage Partners, in which Fortune 1000 senior business and technology executives were surveyed, 67% reported having big data initiatives running and in production, up from 32% last year. 

So, what are 67% of executives using big data for, exactly? Insight and decision speed ranked highest, with 49% and 24% of respondent answers respectively. 

“It should be noted,” the NewVantage Partners report stated, “that the level of skepticism [about big data] has dropped significantly since we first conducted this survey in 2012.” 

Of course, the term still irks the majority of us.

At the very least, big data is beginning to gain real steam throughout organizations and enterprises, helping to increase ROI and provide engaging customer services in return. 

Social Media Site Government User Data Requests Increase

We all know that what we share on Facebook is privy to the world. Of course, there are those instances of private messages and other less-public facing actions that we utilize on the social media network, as well. Certainly, hackers or anyone who understand the web in any sense of the word will tell you that “private” or not, that “anonymous” or not, that “disappearing in a few seconds” or not, whatever you put on the internet is there for all to see. And in Facebook’s case, for the government to seize.

The government collection of data, strictly non-public data, from social media networks including Facebook, Twitter, Google and more in 2012 fueled concerns and raised legitimate questions as to the responsibility of a privately held company to supply information, against its terms of service, on users to a government entity. Such requests are why these networks either settled privacy charges with the government, or are still actively fighting to protect their users’ rights. 

The settlement reached earlier this year allows Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo and other technology firms to disclose more aggregate information about the demands they receive from the government. However, the numbers would be released in broad ranges and the agreement doesn’t give the companies new ways to block demands they view as intrusive.

“Google and Facebook have revealed this fall that government requests for data have increased, 15% and 24% respectively.”

That said, both Google and Facebook have revealed this fall that government requests for data have increased, 15% and 24% respectively, over the past few months, in comparison to the six months prior. Google reports that over the past five years, requests have increased 150%. 

“We’re aggressively pursuing an appeal to a higher court to invalidate these sweeping warrants and to force the government to return the data it has seized,” said a Facebook company blog post on Tuesday.

In the meantime, remember, you trade your data to use their free services. And in doing so, privacy is not currently protected. Until data rights reach a population velocity, that is, until the concept of data rights feel inherent to us all, this type of data scraping will continue to occur.

Al Jazeera Gets Serious About Terms of Service, and By Serious, We Mean Sarcastic

On the plus side, despite all the disappointments this week, there was something simply miraculous that happened: Aljazeera published what must be the truest, most sincere form of flattery for terms of service agreements everywhere – a 46-page long comic book on the topic

It is, quite literally, absolutely everything you’ve ever dreamed of. If you still quote John Oliver’s “You could put the entirety of Mein Kampf in the iTunes terms of service agreement and everyone would just go, ‘Agree,’ ‘Agree,’ “Agree,’” then this comic book is your new best friend. Gift it to yourself, make it an early holiday thing. Whatever you do, just share it around and be happy it exists. Finally, someone with a large audience is getting serious about how absurd these agreements are. The next step is data rights for the people, and policy to ensure it.