14.1 Big Data

It is difficult to talk about communicators’ use of data without quickly hearing the term “big data.” According to Wikipedia, “Big data usually includes data sets with sizes beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, curate, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time…”

A cartoon about Big Data:

Thierry Gregorius – Big Data – CC BY 2.0

Any organization with a web and mobile site presence has the capacity to gather mind-boggling amounts of data about the second-by-second activities taking place on those platforms. The challenge is to figure out what to do with all of that data and how to use that information in a reasonable way to improve the work communications professionals are doing.

Private-sector institutions such as Google, Facebook and Amazon are collecting “big data” about everything their customers and users are doing, saying, sharing, buying, liking and more. These “big data” practices are the subject of considerable attention and concern as they have the potential to create an individual profile of anyone who uses a site for any purpose whatsoever, many times without that person’s knowledge or consent. This is an ongoing area of legal and ethical debate and communicators need to stay current on the most recent rules and regulations about use of “big data” for communications purposes.

Let’s look at each of the contributors of data to understand what they create, how it gets used and how they make their data available for your uses.