Driving North on Highway 101 in Malibu a while back, I encountered a grisly auto wreck that had happened just moments before. Several cars had been involved; the crash caused several injuries and one fatality. A tragic day for all involved to be sure, but in the aftermath, I discovered that the police had appropriated the cell phone of every driver involved in the accident. Apparently, they wanted to determine if any driver was texting or talking at the very moment of the crash.
The details of this particular case are not relevant to this discussion, but the very fact that our connected lives, personal and work-related are being documented in ever increasing detail, in ever more innocuous ways. In this new world, we are always under surveillance. Not only were cell phones given up, but as I drove by, many bystanders were already clicking away furiously, putting moving picture and still, up on YouTube and Facebook before the blood was even dry. No one was going to talk their way out of that one, now that we have the worldwide witness.
In the February 15, 2015, edition of the New York Times, Natasha Singer reports on a woman who, over a period of ten years, received more than fifty-thousand dollars in Medicaid payments. Data scientists were suspicious, and by accessing the LexisNexis Risk Solutions database and the New York state motor vehicle database and other state and city records, they were able to conclude that the woman had in fact committed fraud. The woman and her husband owned three rental properties had more than a hundred thousand dollars in bank accounts, and an electrical contracting business to boot.
This case and the traffic accident described earlier might lead you to think that ‘all eyes are indeed on you’ — which at first glance could be cause for some consternation. The reality may be that the impact of big data is very different. In fact, ‘all eyes are on all of us – all of the time’ may be more apropos, the result of which is that there is a heck of a lot of data to sift through! Already, financial institutions are having a hard time producing actionable intelligence based on current data retrieval methods. Add to that the fact that the Internet, digital transactions, in general, are now processed in real-time. No more five day, float-the-check policy, for most businesses or customers. Consequently, whatever fraud protections we employ, they need to be applied at the moment the transaction takes place.
We’re living in an age where we aren’t sure who the bad guy is. While governments, corporate behemoths, and gargantuan Internet retailers may be picking up every crumb you drop along your digital trail, those evil hackers we’ve heard so much about recently, who’ve stolen your credit card numbers along with those of a billion other folk, they’ve got the same problem: too much data.