Will the Ashley Madison hack and law suits spell the end to Big Data as we know it?

The recent edition of New Scientist has a very thought provoking article (After Ashley Madison: How to regain control of your online data) looking at the near future of personal data and wonders if organisations are going to start avoiding holding large amounts of personal data. I do not want to discourage people reading this well researched and interesting article, so I will just highlight the key points: There is a good chance Ashley Madison will be sued, and that it will lose the case, and that the damages will be so big it will go out of business. Ashley Madison had personal data, it did not adequately protect it (but promised its customers it would), and many of those customers have suffered harm (including broken marriages, jobs lost, and apparently suicides). Most companies holding data about users and customers are not adequately protecting it, and it may not be possible to adequately protect central repositories of data. Eric Snowden illustrated that even the US National Security Agency could not adequately protect information. Consequently, the financial risk of holding large datasets of personal information may become too large for organisations such as Microsoft and Google to risk – which would […]

NewMR – The Big Picture

Sometimes when I run a workshop or training session people want detail, they want practical information about how to do stuff. However, there are times when what people want is a big picture, a method of orientating themselves in the context of the changing landscape around them. Tomorrow I am running a workshop for #JMRX in Tokyo and we are looking at emerging techniques, communities, and social media research – so a big picture is going to be really useful to help give an overview of the detail, and to help people see where things like gamification, big data, and communities all fit. So, here is my Big Picture of NewMR (click on it to see it full size), and I’d love to hear your thought and suggestions. The Big Picture has five elements The heart of the message is that we have reached an understanding that surveys won’t/can’t give us the answers to many of the things we are interested in. People’s memories are not good enough, many decision are automatic and opposed to thought through, and most decision are more emotion that fact. Change is needed, and the case for this has been growing over the last few […]

Feedback from the MRS Conference in London

This week’s MRS Conference in London was one of the best events I have been to in the last year, generating lots of material to think about. There was a great mix of thinkers from the industry, ideas from outside market research, discussion, and good networking. The conference was true to its theme of the ‘Shock of the New’. The only weakness that I think is worth mentioning, because it is a reoccurring problem, is that there was too little international content. If the UK is going to command a position as an innovator, it needs more input from outside the UK, IMHO. Key elements, for me, included: The limitations of Big Data The panel discussion, including great contributions from Lucien Bowater from BSkyB and Mark Risley from Google, emphasised the current limitations of big data in terms of the sorts of problems that market research is asked to answer. Big data approaches work best when there is a clearly defined, narrow question, and sufficient resources to find an answer. In many cases, market research is being called on to answer a more general, less well defined problem. Lucien, more than once, made the plea for research to tell him […]

Laplace and Big Data fallacy

Earlier this week I was in Singapore, attending the MRSS Asia Research Conference, which this year focused on the theme of Big Data. There was an interesting range of papers, including ones linking neuroscience, Behavioural Economics, and ethnography to Big Data. One reference that was repeated by several of the speakers, including me, was IBM’s four Vs, i.e. Volume, Velocity, Variety, and Veracity. Volume is a given, big data is big. Velocity relates to the speed that people want to access the information. Variety reminds us that Big Data includes a mass of unstructured information, including photos, videos, and open-ended comments. Veracity relates to whether the information is correct or reliable. However, as I listened to the presentations, and whilst I heard at least three references to the French mathematician/philosopher René Descartes, my mind turned to another French mathematician, Peirre-Simon Laplace. In 1814, Laplace put forward the view that if someone were (theoretically) to know the precise position and movement of every atom it would be possible to estimate their future position – a philosophical position known as determinism. Laplace was shown to be wrong, first by the laws of thermodynamics, and secondly and more thoroughly by quantum mechanics. The […]