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Big data is the new gold. Everything from coffee machines to lego blocks can be equipped with sensors for data collection.


Developments in so-called big data – large datasets that are difficult to analyze due to their size and complexity – mean that companies can constantly monitor people in the near future. User surveys are nothing new, but the scope of user testing we see today is brand new. And testing is about to grow exponentially when what's called "the Internet of Things" – uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an internet-like structure – links products other than smartphones and tablets to the Internet. The question of whether we will be monitored around the clock in the near future, arises.

First of all, our online behavior is subject to almost continuous monitoring. Multivariable website testing is widespread among companies. Bart Schutz, "persuasion manager" at Online Dialogue (an international network optimization player), says in an episode of the Dutch documentary program Tegenlicht: "The chance of you being part of an experiment if you go online now is great. Absolutely all banks, insurance companies and online stores test. ”We participate in many experiments, one after the other. All in all, "billions of people," according to Schutz.

Ignorant guinea pigs. Multivariable testing allows marketers to drop customer surveys and observe shopping habits directly. The results are more accurate than traditional surveys where people are not necessarily honest or not aware of why they choose one product over another. Pepijn Rijvers at the travel portal said in a Tegenlicht program that all the pages of their website are being tested – all the time. "Some changes are so small that you don't notice them, such as a button with or without a white border."

We are not asked if it is okay for us to be part of an experiment.

Of course, there are practical reasons to implement computer studies that benefit both company and customer. Supply lines can be far more efficient when it comes to shipping the right amount of products to the store, for example. Items with a short expiration date, such as flowers, have previously been difficult to deliver on time. By analyzing the data, the shrinkage of wilting roses and tulips can be significantly reduced.

The disadvantage of online testing is the lack of active approval from the customer. When telephone sales were normal, you could not pick up the phone when it rang in the middle of dinner. Now one has to look up and read lengthy privacy statements on the websites to find out if data is being collected. And even if you take the time to get an overview of the privacy rules for each and every website you visit, you rarely get any alternative. Many services are only available online. Even banks, travel agencies and telecommunications providers have mainly switched to providing their services online.

Also, you can not refuse data collection when visiting a website. We are not asked if it is okay for us to be part of an experiment. The responsibility for obtaining acceptance previously lay with the companies that collected data. Now the customer must do something extra to protect their privacy. Among the tools available are Tor Browser, ad blockers or browser extensions such as Ghostery.

Big data companies. The amount of data collected from the internet is already astounding. Nevertheless, it will be modest in relation to what will soon come from smart products. As more and more products go online, the "Internet of Things" will provide information on behavior both online and offline. Our toothbrushes, training controls and thermostats measure what we do at home, at work and outside. Even bodily functions like our heart rate will soon be uploaded online.

Among the benefits is that people gain greater insight into their own behavior. This can lead to better physical fitness and lower power consumption. But all this data is not only visible to consumers; they are also shared with the manufacturers of the products. For example, the "smart mattress" shares user data with the manufacturer Eight via an app: "Eight can share or sell collected, non-identifiable data with partners and the public in many different ways, such as by obtaining research material and information on health and sleep. »

Even bodily functions like our heart rate will soon be uploaded online.

Businesses will change from manufacturing companies to big data companies as their customer databases increase in value over time. As revenues from data analytics, usage and sales increase, their business model will focus more on data. Big data is the new gold, and many companies are trying to get a piece of it. At the time of writing, all kinds of products are equipped with sensors: coffee machines, bells, and even lego. A sensor can be mounted on virtually anything, and changes simple things into tools for data collection.

This also means that network security becomes an important topic. Instead of hacking a computer or data center, hackers only need access to an object connected to the Internet. At the moment, many "Internet of Things" objects are poorly protected, which means that there is an explosion of easily accessible entry points for hackers along with the spread of the "Internet of Things".

Must be secured. They have been used before. In October 2016, hackers darkened large parts of the internet by spreading malicious codes via the "Internet of Things". Alberto Yépez, one of the founders of Trident Capital Cybersecurity, told The Mercury News that this was probably a test. He expects hackers to try to monetize this vulnerability in the near future.

Predictions from the network security company Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. points to the growing number of attacks on the "Internet of Things" in 2017: "In the coming year, we expect cyber attacks to spread to the industrial IoT." Rami Ben Efraim, who heads the government, defense and critical infrastructure sectors at Check Point, recently said that “in a few years, we will have billions of Internet things that automatically communicate with each other. We will have to secure them. " So the companies that make smart products are themselves threatened.

It can be nice to know if you get enough sleep normally, but the price of a smart mattress can be high considering the potential weakening of privacy and security on the internet at all. Sleep on it, you.

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