We’ve said it before: Data is getting bigger and more valuable. Modern consumption leaves a trail, and that left by Internet consumers is no different. Like a boat in a digital ocean, constant connectivity, rampant social media, location-aware mobile devices and other online interaction is leaving bits of debris behind -- data -- and marketers want it. Companies are aggregating this information in an attempt to have a more holistic image of the customer to engage more completely, but why should companies have all of the fun? A new brand of personal data aggregation services is emerging that changes things.
Buiding a Digital You
Leftover consumer data is much more than just packaging from last night’s sushi. It is a rich composite of Facebook status updates, Tweets, blogs, contacts, check-ins, uploaded images, tagged photos, purchases, websites, résumés and message board posts, all of which tell far more about an individual than their favorite food. Aggregated, you can begin to see what makes someone tick.
An open source effort called the Locker Project gives the same power to individuals that companies have embraced: The ability to collect data about their online activities. Fizz, which is built on locker data aggregated from three places, is a social media data visualization that generates an infographic based on your social media stream.
@techielicous Fizz infographic
The Re-emergence of Peer to Peer
Unlike last night’s dinner, digital leftovers can stay around forever -- even past our own existence. They are available in the public domain and, in many cases, are fully searchable. Once collected, the data can be mined for a variety of uses such as marketing. Although profiling is not a new concept, the increasing importance of online identity allows it to be more comprehensive.
A decade ago, peer-to-peer technology brought in a decade of digital music. A core supporter of the Locker Project, Singly, believes that peer-to-peer data sharing technology can be used for a far greater good than the sharing mp3s online. Jermie Miller, Singly founder, said,
Peer-to-peer has gotten a pretty bad rap over the last 10 years because of file sharing, but the potential for it is awesome. There's so many really good things that can be done with peer-to-peer, and it hasn't gotten used much."
Miller should know. He’s kind of a big deal. He built XMPP or Jabber, the open source protocol that is behind most instant messaging and now all of his energy is invested in personal data aggregation with Singly.
Data is in Your Locker
So what’s the relationship between all of these things? Singly is a company that is sponsoring Locker Project. TeleHash is a protocol that allows applications to seek out and communicate with one another. Although still emerging, Telehash holds a lot of promise. The near real-time peer-to-peer exchange of data is at the heart of the open source Locker Project. The locker stores the data -- it's your digital representation. It has the power to integrate social and network data and bring something new into existence. Together, these tools can capture a user ‘s digital life and return ownership to the individual.
Singly and Locker aren’t the only ones allowing our digital trails to be visualized in new ways. Jess3 specializes in data visualization.
SXSWi social data infographic
The firm has created infographics for items such as SXSW trends and data compiled by Samsung's social hub and Twitter from an advertising and media applications perspective.
All of these things are derived by the little bits and pieces of data that we leave behind, sharing the mundane details of our daily lives. As the use of this data becomes more prevalent and consumed in new, interesting ways, privacy concerns will certainly emerge, but at some point, shouldn’t this data be back in the control of its rightful owner and creator of all of this digital dust -- you -- the individual?