What is Big Data and How Does it Affect You

Everything in this world today is data. With more and more people spending their time online, the chunk of life spent in exchanging data is becoming huge. Imagine you’re searching for a personal query on Google. Now this data of yours is collected and stored to keep a track of what you are doing and how you are spending time online. So basically there’s a record of all that you do online. This is what is known as the grand accumulation of data or Big Data. It is almost like a virtual Big Brother – watching your every move. If you break it down to simple terms, it is exactly that.

But what in the world is Big Data? Is it a technology or volume?

Source - www.flickr.com

Source – www.flickr.com

That’s a smart question. Many people wrongly have known big data to be software, while others believe it to be the volume of the data stored. However, the truth is that Big Data refers to a technology which is used by the vendors. This particular technology is termed big data because it handles large volumes of data and stores it.

Why it matters?

Those who are a little bit aware know that it matters because much is associated with the big data technology. Due to big data, what happens is that the structured or unstructured data, which are sometimes too large for their technologies to process, are stored with the companies.

Source - www.flickr.com

Source – www.flickr.com

So companies such as the agricultural machinery makers keep a track of all the data that is related to their services. Much of the issues in the past point it out that some companies have devised their machinery or technology in a such a way that even if you buy it with your own money, you are just using it – you cannot modify it in any way as you wish to. Doing so would mean you are “illegally” propagating it.

This is why big data matters. Big data at the end of the day is just any company keeping track of all its produced items and barring even the ones who have bought it, from tweaking it according to their wishes. An example of this is what is called “piracy”.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA angle

Holding the DMCA, 1998 up, companies have been arguing for decades that the software which they own is not theirs. So, your uncle may own a tractor, but he doesn’t actually own it, because the programming that goes into making it, is not his own according to the say.

This is very serious an issue for those whose lives depend on these occupations. For example, when a farmer is unable to fix his or her expensive machinery because he or she doesn’t own that piece of technology, it can be a huge burden for their family. The remedial technologies are not available at hand and you have no other option but to purchase that piece of item all over again – is this justified? Apparently this is how things are working at present.

If Uncle Tucker doesn’t have the diagnostic software for his tractor, his business will suffer, and apparently that is what the organizations think is justified. This is the saddest part.

John Deere, the maker of world’s largest agricultural machinery, said to the Copyright office that the farmers are in a way leased these technologies – they are sold the license to work with these and they cannot in any way modify it, even if it is for repairing purposes.

In his own words, he said that the farmers receive “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle”. What use will it be if the vehicle is dysfunctional? Apparently, no one is thinking these things from the farmer’s point of view. Huge losses and short term disturbances are occurring due to these policies.

This happens with other auto motors as well. Most of the Americans aren’t even aware that a large part of the vehicle which they own isn’t even theirs to begin with. This is because the automakers believe that if they gave the makers the license to access the software of the vehicle, they might be able to change the parameters to make the vehicle run faster – they will be able to tweak it and change it according to their desired usage intentions. But that is again not made accessible to normal American folks.

Food is grown on leased seeds

Source - www.flickr.com

Source – www.flickr.com

The funniest part is that if you are even tweaking an emission regulation, should you be liable to answer to the EPA or the DMCA? The rules being set are outrageous since nowhere do these rules apply to the copyright laws.

Brian Talley, a farmer from the California central coast has got it right. He says “the bad part is, my sense is, these companies are just locking up technology, and increasing the sort of monopoly pricing structure that just doesn’t work for us”.

Apparently, there is nothing normal people own these days. Not even the seeds which grow naturally on Earth. Even farmers have no access to seeds – which they paid for. The Monsanto incident is the live evidence of this. The Supreme Court of US fined $80,000 for planting genetically modified soya beans to a local Indiana farmer.

The seeds were saved from last year. Farmers naturally save seeds – at least that is how it had been for the last thousands of years mankind has survived on agriculture. However, the companies argue that they have spent thousands of dollars to grow these genetically modified crops and you cannot reproduce them. So, farmers are prohibited from reproducing seeds from companies such as Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, etc.

According to these companies, there is a certain “intellectual property” of theirs on their seed. So seeds are, in other sense, leased to the farmers now. Some farmers, however, continue to save their seeds now in a process which is termed as “brown bagging” – from the farmer’s point of view this is right because they never know when they might need them. They also don’t like to be told how to farm; afterall a farmer knows his crops best.

How your data is collected

Even though you are not provided access to the actual data, your data is being collected without your notice through the many software and apps which are installed into your machines.

We all know that smart metering collects our data, but very little is known about its safety and whether at all it is a secure measure of sharing data or not. The basic idea behind smart metering is to know how much energy you are consuming, but it also gives them the access to know how much data you use and in which things you spend the most of your data – these are the parameters that smart metering helps big data with.

Source - www.flickr.com

Source – www.flickr.com

We all use Google, and it is seemingly a harmless search engine that provides instant answers to our questions. Thus, we have it installed on our phones as applications, we have Gmail inboxes synced with our phones and from there comes the concept of Google Drive and storage – ever wondered why these search engines hand out “unlimited storage” features for your phones? They also have unlimited photo storage and if you have been using it, you would know that you can also edit your pictures there.

Google innocently keeps a record of all your activity. It is a giant part of the big data collection network which not only tracks but owns your data. Yes, you read that right – Google owns your data! Your data is not even yours. However, here it must be mentioned that the concept of data is still evolving.

To understand it this way, if a person is using your GPS to track you down, he or she is breaking laws; but if they are putting people at different places to locate you, they are not breaking any laws. The lines of data collection and usage are blurred, and for now, it seems to be used for the advantage of the big corporations to tailor their products according to your tastes – you must have seen those ads about property popping up on Facebook right after you made a search on Google. This is what is done with your produced data.

We can only hope definitive laws will be laid down for data usage and records in the future.

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