The rise of social networks and social media has put millions of people within a few degrees of separation of each other and made it easier for them to post and share volumes of personal data online.
Many people who use social networks like Facebook and MySpace are more than willing to publish any and all personal information about themselves for people to see.
The willingness of people to share this personal information online has created a virtual goldmine of data that can be mined and analyzed by others for a large number of intriguing uses.
Everyone from financial services companies to marketers are collecting this personal data from social networks for their own new and unique uses.
Recently, Roger Thompson, a researcher at AVG, discovered that his credit card company was using data from his Facebook profile. He wrote about a situation where they asked him to confirm information about himself for credit security reasons, and one of the questions they asked him involved the identity of his daughter-in-law. According to Richard Thompson, this personal data had not been provided to his bank by him and is only publicly available on his Facebook profile.
Reportedly, some number-crunching credit card companies and financial firms are working on computer algorithms that analyze a credit applicant’s social network of friends in the belief that people who are a credit risk tend to associate with one another.
These examples and others suggest that companies are aware of the growing levels of personal data on social networks, and are starting to experiment with how it can be analyzed for business intelligence.
According to Dallas Lawrence, head of the social media practice group at Levick Strategic Communications, 2009 saw an explosion in the number of people joining and using social networks and social media sites. As a result, he believes that companies will collect this personal data and combine it with new search technology to analyze the “trillions of data points” that are now available to them.
The industry that is driving much of the interest in social media data mining is advertising and marketing.
Until social networking came along, these data-hungry companies were limited to collecting mostly anonymous information. Social networks filled in the missing piece; identifying who is reading what online and buying what on e-commerce sites.
The next step will be the analysis of your online friends’ data for, example, scoring credit and other data-mining uses that involve the “birds of a feather flock together” idea.
Social network information is fast becoming the subject of court cases.
Just as data mining of social media information is new, so is the legal idea that people might have some rights over their online information, according to attorney Elise Dieterich.
Although there are a couple of bills moving through the US House and Senate that address data accountability, trust and uses by third-party data brokers, people should assume that the personal information they post on social networks can and will be used for reasons they may have never intended.
[ Source: TechNewsWorld ]