“There’s not a single flashlight app that’s not spying on you right now.”
John McAfee, Antivirus Pioneer, Politician, and Businessman
DATA COLLECTION IN WEB APPS
I have to admit that I’ve had a quite a few experiences of eerie feelings recently. I might have a conversation with my wife or friends about something and then, when boredom hits, I reach for my phone, hit the Facebook app, and BOOM! There are stories linked to the same subject matter. Next thing you know you get an ad selling some product tied to the conversation. I don’t know about you, but I have wondered if my phone was spying on me.Turns out, it is. It sold me out for data. Now it doesn’t even call (Badump bah).
That was up until I read several research papers on the industry of data collection. Now I know my phone is spying on me. Not only that, my phone is selling my data for big bucks to company upon company.
Before I get in too much trouble I need to clarify something: It’s not necessarily that my phone is spying on me. It boils down to three things working together to get my data: 1) the phone, 2) the apps I gave permission to access my every move, and 3) the search engines I use. All three are doing the data collection. All of my contacts, emails, apps, text messages, and the audio on my microphone, and the video that streams across my camera are being searched, saved, coordinated, compiled, and put into neat profile categories that help businesses sell me products.
If you were worried about being spied on, think about a new tool called a “beacon”. I recently had a conversation with a vendor at a tradeshow whose sole product was data collection. He mentioned selling a well-known retail electronics chain an application that notifies the store personnel when a preferred (high spend) customer walks through the door. The app notifies the team of where the customer is (to some extent) and provides advertisements direct to the customers’ smart phones. Beacons provide businesses the ability to connect with customers in highly collaborative and helpful ways that can lead to a positive shopping experience which leads to increased positive brand awareness, customer loyalty, and increased sales.
DATA COLLECTION IS THE FUTURE
Data collection continues to grow and spread. Groups of people can now take part in mobile crowd sensing by using their mobile devices. This is an opt-in version of data collection. Key to this practice and its success is the end users’ belief that they are anonymous. Where beacons and apps either transmit or collect data, the process of data collection in mobile crowd sensing is targeted, collaborative, and intentional. Both the beacon and app data collection methods lack these three attributes. Think of mobile crowd sensing as the data collection version of crowd sourcing. Instead of providing funds for a project that the “crowd” wants to support, data is provided with the goal of building an effective project. If done properly, we could see better road systems, concert and live venue experiences, and retail designs.