Amazon’s Big Data

Amazons Most Prized Possession: Our Personal Data

Ever since the inception of the internet, individuals personal online privacy has diminished.  While there are a variety of different reasons that companies may try to access our personal information on the internet, it is a reality that is becoming increasingly unavoidable in recent years.  Corporations and businesses often use the data they collect to more accurately target adds to consumers in hopes of monetary gains.  This is why it is common to have pop up adds on various websites from searches you either made on Amazon.  Despite the use of big data contributing to the explosion of Amazon in the retail market, the methods in which they use consumers data may be an invasion of privacy.

How Does Amazon do this?

Amazon goes about collecting data in several different ways in order to most accurately personalize your online experience.  Primarily, Amazon will record your purchases and searches on their platform through their collaborative filtering engine technology, also known as CFE.   This allows Amazon to recommend related items that may interest the user.  This method of data collection and application contributes to 35% of their data annually, which is a significant portion.  Secondly, Amazon uses a tool called price optimization, which sets the price of a given good based on: “your activity on the website, competitors’ pricing, product availability, item preferences, order history, expected profit margin and other factors”.  This allows Amazon to raise the price of goods when their data algorithms predict that a consumer is willing to pay more for a good, and visa versa.  It is estimated that this tool increases Amazon’s sales 25% annually.  While these aren’t the only tools that Amazon uses to maximize its sales, these are the most invasive yet effective ones.

How Big is This Industry?

The big data industry is growing at an exponential rate, which is worrisome to consumers around the world. According to leading studies, the bid data market in 2018 was worth 40 billion dollars, and expected to grow to 103 billion dollars by 2027.  With the increase in focus by companies such as Amazon on the big data market, it is important for consumers to recognize the affects of this growing market.  Not only is the monetary value of this industry increasing by the day, but also the amount of data we contribute to databases increases as we use the internet.  As our society becomes more dependent on the use of technology, it is inevitable that we will be giving more of our information away online.  Online users often times give up their privacy either unknowingly or because of their laziness.  Companies can hide the methods in which they collect the data within unnecessarily long “terms and services” contracts that the vast majority of people don’t read.  This not only keeps the user in the dark about the privacy of their personal information, but also fails to inform individuals how to protect their privacy online.

Tradeoffs We Need to be Aware of:

As our technology continues to improve, it is evident that our experience with the internet will become increasingly seamless.  While this may be attractive to some consumers, this benefit comes with a large tradeoff. In order to interact coherently with the internet, it is imperative that data be collected about our habits online.  By giving up this bit of personal privacy allows corporations to further tailor their websites to our needs.  It is up to consumers around the world to determine if they are willing to trade their personal privacy for a smooth online experience.

Problems that Arise from Big Data: Amazon Addition

As we look at the development of Big Data, it is necessary to discuss how our  relationship with the internet will affect our lives.  Not only will this new development affect our online practices, but also our daily lives.  When Amazon provides a list of suggested products to customers based off their previous purchases, and consumers buy these products, Amazon is inherently affecting how we spend our money and the products we use on a day to day basis.  In addition, when Amazon price discriminates based off what their algorithms estimate we are willing to pay for certain products, they are regulating who can get what products and for what price.  While these affects may seem small in the short run, they have the potential to control what groups of consumers have better access to specific products, based off of their algorithms derived from our online data.

 

Sources:

  • Simplilearn. “How Big Data Is Used In Amazon Recommendation Systems | Big Data Application & Example | Simplilearn.” YouTube, YouTube, 26 July 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4RL6prqtGQ.
  • Wills, Jennifer. “7 Ways Amazon Uses Big Data to Stalk You.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 12 Mar. 2019,     www.investopedia.com/articles/insights/090716/7-ways-amazon-uses-big-data-stalk-you-amzn.asp.
  • “Global Big Data Market Size 2011-2027.” Statista, www.statista.com/statistics/254266/global-big-data-market-forecast/.
  • “Software, Not Hardware, Will Catapult Big Data into a $103B Business by 2027.” SiliconANGLE, 4 Oct. 2018, siliconangle.com/2018/03/09/big-data-market-hit-103b-2027-services-key-say-analysts-bigdatasv/.

“The Social Network”

Throughout this course, several different sources were presented in class to further the student’s understanding of how the internet impacts our daily lives.  While many different topics have been covered, one of the most common themes throughout all of our studies has been emergence massive online corporations. Online presences such as these have the potential to impact our society in a dramatic way because of their global reach. 

Understanding the roots from which massive corporations emerged could potentially aid students in learning the societal effects that they have.  The recently released movie “the social network” illustrates the inception of facebook, which is a cooperation that has monumental impacts on our lives everyday.  Watching this movie would allow students ponder the societal issues surrounding corporations such as these, and potential solutions to the problems.

Facebook has been accused of actions such as allowing robot accounts controlled by foreign countries to influence national elections.  While these accusations may not be entirely factual, it is evident that facebook plays a massive role in our society, and has both positive and negative impacts.  Social media platforms have largely maintained their initial intended use.  However, facebook has partially turned into more than a social media platform, as millions of people use it as a news platform and a medium in which to exchange ideas. 

Due to the change in use of this online platform, many people are in favor of increasing regulations on facebook.  The goal of further regulating facebook is to minimize potential negative effects that the platform has on society.  People have criticized the platform of having “feedback loops”, where individuals are only exposed to ideas that are synonymous with theirs.   While it’s difficult to eliminate this problem, it is essential to address when discussing the platforms flaws. 

Not only would this movie inform the students about the creation of facebook, but we could also tie many other aspects of the course into the movie.  For example, when we talk about data collection, we could relate it to the movie and discuss how entities such as facebook collect data on their users. There are many other topics covered in the movie that we have also covered in class.

Finally, it would be beneficial for the students to do a group project on the movie.  Each group would pic one topic from the movie to elaborate on in a creative format.  In addition, they would expand on their topic outside the scope of facebook.  Elaborating on the bigger picture of their topic would help other students understand the impact Facebook has on the world at large.  

All in all, it is paramount that students watch “the social network” in class as it relates to countless topics that we have discussed throughout the term.  Pairing this with a group project would further everyones understanding of the topic in general. Facebook is a massive corporation with profound impacts on society, and should certainly be a topic of discussion.

Vibrant Visualizations

When simply put in an analog format, many projects fail to convey the message they are attempting to, as it is difficult to visualize the entire picture.  Therefore, when available, it is beneficial for people to use some sort of digital visualization technique to aid the viewer in further understanding the underlaying message . 

In the case of ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World, an interactive digital map was placed on their website to help individuals visualize the span of the roman empire.  The goal of this project is to help internet users understand the vast expansiveness of the Roman Empire. In addition, they attempt to inform the viewers what the journey traveling from one location in the empire to another would be like. The span of this project covers nearly 10 million square miles and 650 sites.  It covers all of the most popular trade and traveling passages, including: rivers, seas, and land routes. 

This interactive website offers several different modes in which the user can experience the sojourn from different locations within the empire.  First, the user decides their mode of travel, with options such as camel, walking, horse, carriage, etc.  Then, the computer will generate several outcomes for the speed at which you would travel and the amount of money it would cost to complete the journey. In total, the algorithm can generate a 363,000 possible outcomes for how one could complete a journey through the roman empire. 

This interactive experience gives each viewer a unique but informative adventure that tailors their experience to their personal tastes and preferences.  Without the digital visualizations aspect of this project, the larger picture that the ORBIS is trying to portray would not be captured.  The American Historical Association, or AHA, would advocate for scholarship such as this as it presents factual information in a more modernized format.  One of the largest criticisms of historical information is that it has been presented on the same medium for countless years, while other subjects of work have modernized. For these reasons, the AHA is pushing for more interactive digital visualization projects that present information in a modern format. 

While this historical project has many advantages, there are still a few flaws in the system that leave room for improvement.  ORBIS decided to focus more on the average journey that Romans would have taken hundreds of years ago, therefore some outlying trips are not included in the project. 

All in all, scholarly works that uses modernized digital visualizations allow for students and other viewers to understand a subject more completely.  The American Historical Association advocates for works like this to pursue to modernize the way in which history is presented. These works allow for people to view research in a more digestible format, allowing more people to study in the field of history.  

Chaos in Chernobyl

Chaos in Chernobyl

Breaking News: the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine has recently caught fire, releasing deadly radioactive material to the surrounding areas. Fire fighters are responding to the scene as fast as possible, in attempts to contain the spread of radioactive materials.  These brave individuals plan to encase the nuclear reactor with a cement cage called the “sarcophagus” to prevent further damage to the surrounding area.  

A flaw in the design of the nuclear reactor, compounded with inadequate personnel on staff at the time led to a massive fire in one of the reactors.  This issue could have been avoided if the individuals who designed this machine took greater precautions when constructing the device.  This is just another example of an individual putting their personal gain in front of both the good of others and the environment as a whole. 

Citizens in the surrounding areas have been evacuated in attempts to avoid negative health consequences that are synonymous with exposure to radiation.  Despite notable efforts taken everyone to minimize the damage humans encounter due to this catastrophe, millions of individuals are expected to experience detrimental effects from the radiation exposure. 

President Trump has been in touch with Petro Poroshenko, the leader of Ukraine, in hopes of finding a more permanent solution to this issue.  However, many United States citizens continue to voice their frustration with the president through this trying time. Protests crowd the streets of popular cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, pushing back against the current state our environment is in.  Many believe that the worlds leadership are acting in a negligent manner when it comes to treating the environment in a responsible manner. 

There has been a movement in recent years to take greater care of the world that we live in not only for the interest of ourselves, but also everything that shares this planet with us.  If disasters like this continue to occur, we may not have anywhere to live in the future.  An organization that promotes the wellbeing of the environment recently set up a go-fund-me on twitter to help with the recovery efforts in the area.

Moving forward it is essential that we as a society move to a more sustainable source of energy that does not negatively impact our environment. For too long have people been using energy that either pollutes the atmosphere, which ultimately contributes to global warming, or energy sources that have the potential to cause massive environmental disasters.  It is essential that this conversion be made if we don’t want to continue exporting our planet for its resources, while damaging our quality of life.

Privacy vs. Personalization

Everyday, people sacrifice their personal privacy by simply browsing the web without even knowing it.  Massive corporations pay search engines for the data they collect from users for a variety of reasons, most of which is driven by monetary gain. If a company has the ability to make advertisements more personalized based off of previous purchases and website search history, they now have the potential to make more money. With this being said, I felt it was necessary to study the terms and services of the largest search engine on the internet, Google.

Immediately when you begin to read the terms and services on googles website, you are greeted by the statement “When you use our services, you are trusting us with your information”.  Right off the bat this statement sets off red flags in my mind.  This informs us that they do in fact use and store the data we produce, and in turn sell it to various companies that want to purchase it. In addition, google declares that they use the data they collect to produce a more personalized experience for the user.  However, is a more personalized experience worth the decrease in privacy?  Not only can this collection of data affect your life as an individual, but it has larger implications as well.  Motherboard’s article describes facebooks role in the election of Donald Trump, which affected millions of people in either a positive or negative way.

While it would be smart for each user read the terms and conditions document in its entirety, this is not the case in reality.  If every internet user were to educate themselves on what google does with their information, I predict that they would be more cautious with what they put on the internet. 

For google specifically, their privacy section of the terms and services informs us that they collect data on the type of websites that we visit, goods we purchase online, and other tendencies that are observable from our online activities.  To the average user, when google uses and sells this data it simply appears that their experience is becoming more personalized.  On the surface, a personalized experience is very beneficial and convenient.  

However, it is necessary for everyone who has access to the internet ask themselves if they are okay with large corporations having access to information that is personal to us.  If technology for collecting data were to advance any further, corporations could seemingly have access to any piece of information about us at their finger tips. 

Google does offer somewhat of a solution to this dilemma of privacy versus a personalized experience many internet users are faced with.  Custom privacy settings are available for anyone that uses the search engine.  While this does allow users to delete some personal information from googles databases, it doesn’t entirely remove all of the information about them that is out there on the internet.  

All in all, it is nearly impossible to use the internet without giving up some sort of personal information.  However, if we all use the privacy settings that google provides and are cautions with what we put online, internet users in general will be able to maintain m

ore privacy while browsing the web. 

My Professor Mary Abdoney

Regardless of an individuals effort to maintain their privacy on social media platforms such as twitter and instagram, it is nearly impossible to hide all your personal information from those scanning the internet.  In order to prove this claim, my classmates and I have been challenged to do some digging on our professor, Mary Abdoney, in order to gain insight on her personal life, as well as any views she maintains.

Initially, I simply typed her name into various social media websites, and was successfully able to access both her twitter and facebook profiles. By searching through her facebook, I was able to find out that she married her husband Ned Norland in Lexington Virginia during the month October in 2012. Later in 2013, she purchased her fist house with her Husband Ned, where she would raise her son around a year later.  She attended high school at H.B plant, located in Tampa Florida.  In addition, I gained an insight into some of her political beliefs.  Several posts pertained to the fall of the patriarchy, leading me to believe that she is a strong feminist supporter.  This causes me to wonder if she experiences any feedback loops on her timelines because of her advocacy of the feminist movement.  Articles such as “How to Escape your Political Bubble for a Clear View” discuss the issues surrounding confirmation bias on social media platforms, and how adds and posts often appeal to an individuals views.

Next, I was able to access her twitter feed, which gave me more information  about her personal life.  Here, Professor Abdoney expresses her deep passion for critical librarianship.  Seeing as this is her professional career, I was not surprised to see her conversations with other librarians regarding the subject.  It is evident that Professor Abdoney uses the twitter platform as a tool to communicate relevant issues as well as new ideas with the rest of the librarians around the world.

Because of the data that various social media platforms use to create adds that appeal to an individuals personal views, speculations could be made about various feedback loops that Professor Abdoney may experience.  I would expect her to receive adds that are more left leaning because the feminist movement is often associated with more liberal ideologies. In the grand scheme of things, this could become problematic if she is only exposed to ideas that support her claim, rather than exposing her to ideas that may challenge her personal beliefs.  In society, this could potentially eliminate the polarity that we experience in politics today because people would become more exposed to contrasting ideas.  Secondly, I would imagine that on her twitter page she receives adds that appeal to librarians.

While I believe that social media platforms maintain the right to target certain individuals with certain adds based off of their tastes and preferences, it can become problematic in the long run.  One of the instances where this can become an issue is when your social media turns into a feedback loop, where an individual is sheltered from ideas that contrast with their own.  This ultimately contributes to the polarization that we currently experience in the political world today.

My Daily Web Interactions

Nearly every individuals living in the 21st century has become tremendously more reliant on technology in their daily lives.  Every morning I wake up to the droning sound of my alarm clock on my iPhone, commencing my interaction with technology for the day. I lay in my bed for around 10 minutes checking various social media websites to get up to date on anything that may have transpired in my friends lives the day before.  After I am done with my shower, I come back to my dorm room only to be reminded on my phone that I have class beginning in 30 minutes.  In the mere 20 minutes that I have been awake, I have already interacted with my phone several times, indicating how reliant us Americans are on our cellphones in 2019.  However,  My screen time on my phone tends to diminish throughout the day because I am either occupied with classes or practices.  However, just because I am not using my cellular device doesn’t mean that I am completely “unplugged” from the internet all-together.  In fact, nearly all of my classes require me to use a laptop in some way or another. Whether it is browsing the internet to find information about a particular topic that I am researching, or simply accessing a textbook online, I am still staring into the screen of some sort of device throughout the day.  Typically, after I finish up all of my classes and practices, my friends and I will gather in my room to watch a football or basketball game on my television, which is ultimately just another way that I interact with technology in my day to day life.  Finally, as my day comes to an end, I wrap things up by setting the alarm on my phone for the next morning, continuing this cycle of a technology filled life for the next day.

We as a society have made tremendous leaps and bounds in the past 50 years to simplify our life through technology.  It is apparent how beneficial technology can be to us in our day to day lives.  For example, there is a very good chance that if I didn’t have some sort of digital alarm clock to wake me up for my 8:00 am classes, I wouldn’t make it to them.  However, as we become more and more reliant on our devices, we lose touch of what is actually going on around us.  There have been countless times that I have gone to a restaurant to see a couple sitting face to face with each other, only to be glued to their phones rather than talking with one another.  While observing my interaction with technology throughout the day, I realized that while I do use my devices to be productive, I often find myself distracted by my phone.  If we don’t make a conscious effort to limit our time on our various devices, then we may lose out on many real life experiences.