Metadata is more valuable for large data mining companies than your name, address or telephone number.
Your name doesn’t matter. The color of your hair is not important. Your way of walking, your accent or your perfume are useless. It is your internet presence what you should be worried about.
“These data have less and less impact, where you were born does not matter for your work, or for a company to sell you a product, or to decide if you are going to be a terrorist or not. In none of these cases does this significantly mark your internet profile.
On the internet you are a connection time, the words you type on Twitter, the date of creation of your Instagram account.
Metadata is associated with most of the information we produce in our interactions and daily communications in the digital world. This has been proven by a team made up of researchers from University College London and the Alan Turing Institute.
The result of this work, entitled You are your Metadata: Identification and Obfuscation of Social Media Users, is a set of algorithms capable of identifying a Twitter user among 10,000 others, with accuracies above 95% and using metadata as the only source of information.
Do not you think it’s creepy enough?
Well it also works in other networks and is robust enough to continue working with almost identical accuracy, even if 60% of the data is altered.
What is metadata?
In this context, it would be a descriptive information or label that is associated with our presence in networks and the content that we pour into them.
The authors of the study based their conclusions on nine types of metadata that can be extracted from Twitter: date of creation of the account, number of tweets that have been marked as favorites, number of users that is following you, number of followers, geolocation or not of the tweets, number of public lists that include the account, time of the publications, number of tweets and if the account is verified or not.
Companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have been playing a very rigged game. They have put all the focus on information such as name, last name, age, address and telephone number as proof they are not spying on us.
“The metadata are associated with most of the information we produce in our interactions and daily communications in the digital world,” the researchers say. “However, they are still categorized as non-sensitive information.”
For them, the behavioral information contained in the metadata is as informative as that which can be derived from the analysis of texts, images and even data relating to our locations. Yes, those that Google saves and why we are so concerned about.
Companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have been playing a very rigged game. They have put all the focus on information such as name, last name, age, address and telephone number as proof they are not spying on us, while at the same time capturing, without our consent, as much metadata as their computers and algorythms can grab on a minute by minute basis. It is there where wealth can be found in the XXI century.
Do they take advantage of our ignorance?
Yes. Many internet users are still far from understanding how their movements, likes, shares and photos greatly enhances the exponentially growing data mining business, where the product that is sold is you.
More often than not, data mining companies identify idioms, regionalisms, cultural level, amount of slang, and even the way to express themselves in terms of writing. among others patterns to create a profile about you, the user. All this information is added to identify characteristic features and detect certain trends.
In general, we are talking about the same micromarketing that Netflix or your bank can use. The difference is that others buy and sell it as access to your life so third parties can offer products or services. This is also how governments know exactly where you are 24/7.
Data mining companies use multiple sources of information to find patterns that can identify individuals, behaviours… all in the same of national security, of course.
They spy on people’s activism, announcements and other publications on the internet where they share their beliefs or their vision of the world.
Do the rules of the game change when we talk about national security? There are mechanisms to deal with this as well.
The balance between security and privacy seems difficult, as long as these technologies are in the hand of powerful governments and large multinational corporations who hold the monopoly on metadata to a point where it can be said that there is no privacy anymore as long as you have a cellphone, social media accounts or smart devices in your home.
There is just too much money involved to ignore it
Let’s take a look at a friendlier version of the totalitarian state: LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is recognized as a professional social network, but in reality is a meta data and data mining enterprise.
60% of LinkedIn’s income comes from LinkedIn Talent Solutions, which has become the largest professional network in the world, with a total of 562 million registered members.
The vast majority of them use the platform individually for free, although there are also people who purchase premium licenses.
For companies, a set of tools are marketed that, thanks to segmentation and advanced search, make it easier to find the candidates that best adapt to their needs.
It allows them, for example, to publish job advertisements, send direct messages or manage databases without leaving the platform.
The evolution of the use of the network in its 15 years of history has meant that they were identifying other business opportunities.
Only 20% of our users are actively seeking employment at any time. The rest are doing other things, such as sharing content or expanding their network of contacts.
LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, tools designed to increase the visibility of companies and assist them in their promotion work; LinkedIn Sales Solutions, aimed at streamlining sales and closing commercial deals; and, more recently, LinkedIn Learning Solutions, a range of digital courses for professionals to acquire skills ranging from very specific issues.
“Our main objective is not to make money with user profiles, but most importantly, they do not see their experience compromised within the platform, we understand that our members do not ‘spend’ time on LinkedIn, as It happens with other social networks of a personal nature, but they invest it in. And, precisely because of that, we do not want to crush them to ads, it’s a delicate balance, “says Sarah Harmon, from LinkedIn.
She confesses: “The first thing is to make clear that LinkedIn is a big data company, for us that is our oil, the data is what makes us value for our clients and for the end user, to whom we provide a list of job offers appropriate to your profile. “
“The challenge now is how we can use big data to improve the diversity of talent in companies, without any bias, we are learning as we go, but we have to be very careful not to limit ourselves to replicating a certain model of success,” Harmon says.
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About the author: Luis R. Miranda
Luis R. Miranda is an award-winning journalist and the founder & editor of The Real Agenda News. His career spans over 23 years in every form of news media. He writes about environmentalism, education, technology, science, health, immigration and other current affairs. Luis has worked as on-air talent, news reporter, television producer, and news writer.