Big Data + Big Tech = Big Issues – The Oxford Student

I’ve never given a hoot about who has access to my personal information. It makes no difference to me that my digital footprint has expanded to include the government and a small number of multinational corporations. What does this have to do with me? Only my potential tutors and my parents are concerned about my online activities because neither of my parents works for either of these companies.

Our online activities generate massive amounts of data

Engagement is frequently used interchangeably with the amount of time spent watching something, but it also includes likes, comments, and shares. According to Facebook, the social media company hosted 300 petabytes of user data as of January 2021, which generated 1 million gigabytes of data per day at the time. In comparison, the storage available on your iPhone is 4.6 million times smaller.

They claim to be able to provide us with a more “personalised” experience by using our personal information, displaying more of the content we are likely to find valuable. This is not only deceptive, but also harmful.

These tech and social media companies want to keep us on their platforms as long as possible in order to benefit from their ad-based business models. They are compensated as we spend more time on their platform. Because Big Tech has so much media and data on so many people, it is attempting to keep and monetize our attention.

To accomplish this, the company employs an asymmetry of power between its employees and its customers. These tech companies can provide us with content that will keep us glued to our phones because they use all of our collective data to feed algorithms developed by some of our generation’s brightest minds.

Technology behemoths compete for our attention by providing an abundance of media and data from billions of people.

Algorithms can use this wealth of data to serve up content that has previously engaged other users with similar interests, increasing their chances of success. These predictions about which posts or videos will capture our attention can be made with a high degree of accuracy. If you recall your high school biology textbooks, you’ll recall that more data available equals better predictions, and data is something big tech has plenty of.

To put it another way, algorithmic technologies, the Arnold Schwarzenegger of technological advancements, frequently keep us glued to the screen even when we believe we are actively choosing to click on another video in YouTube’s recommended bar or scroll through our Instagram Explore.


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