Mar 11 2009

“Click” and “The Numerati”

Published by at 8:41 am under Books

Click by Bill Tancer
The Numerati by Stephen Baker

Computers enable data collection on a scale that was never possible before. In some case the data is accumulated just because it is possible and the data is ‘available’. Uses are eventually found for it. Once the data is collected, it is kept and may be used for unintended (unauthorized?) uses. Much but not all the data and its potential abuses involve the Internet. Privacy is diminished. These tow books are non technical and easily read book about how people are using computers to collect and analyze huge volumes of data for a variety of purpose.
Click has the narrower focus and only concerns itself with “click stream analysis”. Data on what web sites are accessed from what addresses is collected by ISP’s (the companies that provide internet connections) and then sold with a source identification but not a “individual user” identification. Trends, associations, and timing of the usage of various web sites can then be analyzed. The author works for a company that analyzes and sells such data mainly for marketing purposes. Questions like when is it best to advertise a product, what products should be advertised with which other products, etc. Lots of example. Many curiosities.
The Numerati covers a broader scope of data collection sources and ultimate uses. The Internet is not the only easy source of digital data: Public records, financial transactions, census data, voter registrations, etc. There are companies making money by digitizing and aggregating data so that it is easier for others to access.
The message here is privacy is eroding. ‘Click’ takes the attitude that it is all innocuous. Numerati seems to see more of the dark side. Yes, a lot of the data is “anonymous”, but only “sort of”. ISP’s can identify who is associated with a click stream, but they promise not to do that unless legally compelled. At the very least while you may not be identified by name, your behavior puts you in groups that are hit with ads, sent political propaganda, etc. Sometimes into very small groups!

Clicks don’t go away. Data or text posted on Internet don’t go away.

If you want an introduction to what can be done, Numberati is probably better since it is broader and less repetitive. Click is probably better if you are interested in uses in business; especially advertising.

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