Data Mining: What is it, and Why Should You Care?

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Data Mining: What is it, and Why Should You Care?

Grace-Ann Hawthorne, Writer

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Have you ever been scrolling through a social media account, whether that be Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or even Facebook, and wondered, “How did they know I was just researching (insert product here)!” This phenomenon has plagued the minds of countless internet users since social media began. However, do we know how sites collect this information, or, more importantly, why they do so?
An article put out by Fortune.com says that sites like Facebook collect almost all the data you give to the site. A list of possible information includes: every ad you click, any personal information you add to the site (such as your school, age, hometown and current city, employment,, groups you’re part of, etc.), every IP address you use to access your account, every friend you have in your account, all of your activity, and any third-party app information (ie: when you use Facebook to make accounts for apps such as Spotify).
This raises the question—what is the point of collecting this information? Kalev Leetaru, a writer for Forbes.com, says that data miners are shadowy businesses that will buy and sell the information gathered from various social media platforms. This information can be bought by anyone, and buyers range from big corporations for ad analytics to the media site itself.
Yale.edu published an article all about social media mining (data mining specific to social media), which can be defined as, “the process of representing, analyzing, and extracting actionable patterns from social media data.” A study published in the Journal of Advertising showed that Twitter Streaming Application Programming Interface can collect scarily specific data, such as how 15.7% of all tweets about fast food were promotions by the company and 66.7% of all tweets about Comcast had a negative implications.
Data mining in the age of social media has come down to a science, whether it be dangerous or not. Companies are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure their product is seen. As consumers, what we put out on our accounts is free game to anyone trying to collect our data. Remember what is collected and sold the next time you decide to post iffy pictures, or go down a risky hole on social media.

 

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