In the digital world you are defined by the data exhaust of your many activities. From your communication and movement activities, to your purchase and sales activities, there is a digital record of your actions that can be put together to collectively constitute your digital self.
The data about you can be analyzed and mined for patterns of behavior. Who you talk to, when you talk, what you talk about, and how you communicate … all these can be deciphered from analyzing the text and time-stamps of your conversations. Your pictures and comments and Likes on FaceBook tells a lot about what you do, what you like, and who you relate to. Your tweets are a veritable record of your many proclamations, jokes, and commentary. Smartphone apps like WhatsApp contain a complete record of much sharing among half-a-billion people across the globe.
For instance, a composite profile of a person was made using only 45 days’s worth of data from WhatsApp. It showed who the person talked to, what she talked about, when she talked most, and how she communicated. Advertising companies can perfectly understand her behavior patterns, and sell her what they can. The analysis showed that the person spoke a lot about food, desserts, and weight loss. And that she was online most often at 8 pm. Thus companies could sell her more food, sugary stuff, and then also sell her dreams and products for weight loss.
Our behaviors are far more patterned, and a lot less spontaneous, than we care to believe. Modeling the data about your activities can show that. How can we be better prepared to counter those who may be using many of our unconscious behavior patterns to fleece us? One way is to understand your own digital self better.
The first step is to be open to understanding yourself in a deep data-driven way. The example above shows the value of being self-aware of our behavior patterns.
The second step will be to obtain data about our digital self. Organizations like FaceBook and Google gather all the data, analyze it and then send targeted ads on behalf of businesses. However is is not very clear right now, how an individual can gather the data from the likes of FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and hundreds of other sites. If large organizations can obtain such data, individuals should also be able to do so. I found an application called http://givememydata.com/ that helps you get back your data from FaceBook.
Data about one’s own activities should be made available free of charge to every individual. The data should be made available in a pre-processed form that is easily understandable and manageable by the individual concerned. This should be similar to how all credit-rating agencies need to offer you annually a free record of all your financial profile.
Once the data has been collected, the third step is to analyze the data, along very simple lines to generate a composite dashboard of oneself. That will be our accessible digital self, seen through the digital mirror.
For more on data mining check out my book available on Amazon.