I’m not sure if this is common knowledge for everyone, as I keep bumping into people who are unaware, but Google personalizes your search results based upon what you click on using browser cookies.  Essentially, if you frequently Google things and consistently look for a Wikipedia article to click on in your results, Google will start to put Wikipedia at the top of all of your searches.   But depending on your browsing history and habits if you and a friend Google the same word you will find yourselves looking at potentially different results.  That’s not to mention the fact that you have a record at Google of all of your previous searches, and depending on your privacy settings the location where you made your search, the browser you were on, etc.

While this data set probably would be a researcher’s dream, it’s a lot of information that can paint a very detailed picture about who you are.  I’d say from a trends standpoint I can usually tell when one of my old coworkers is starting to look for a new job. The Facebook page gets scrubbed of anything remotely incriminating, and I see a flurry of updates on LinkedIn and new connections being made.  There are firms out there now with the software to track which of your employees are connecting with recruiters on LinkedIn so management can keep abreast of any potential flight risks.  I still think great managers tend to have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in their ranks though without the software.

So how much data are we talking about? According to IBM, every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. My numbers game is rusty so I had to look that up; a quintillion is a one followed by 18 zeros. 90% of the data in the word has been created in the last two years alone.  All of this data is being aggregated and creates a very sophisticated picture of who we are. 

Now, I’ve been following the Google v. the EU case, with the right to be forgotten and the idea that it is an international human right.  The FiveThirtyEight blog just reported this week that 280,000 people in the EU have exercised that right as of now.   I think this sets the stage for some interesting questions that are going to eventually trickle into our day to day. It’s a fast paced world given how exponentially quick data grows, and ethically what can and should we be able to do with all this data? How much is your data saying about you that you don’t realize? 

If these questions and their answers interest you, join me July 28 at 2pm ET for Data for Good, Data for Evil and the Aggregation of Everything with Bill Boorman.  Bill will lead a discussion about the data that surrounds us, and how we can aggregate data from multiple sources in order to see the big (or at least bigger) picture.  It won’t be your typical recruiting webinar.  Hope to see you there.

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