The mormons, Salt Lake City and ancestry.com – what does THIS have to do with big data?

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image5005751“Big data” is the catch phrase of 2014; next year there will be another one. Just as with the terms “cloud technologies” and “MSP” in 2012 and 2013, this phrase’s popularity and usage will fade and another phrase will dominate.

Big data is going to provide a boom to business once we can harness the power within that data, and once we have created meaningful and informed statistics from the billions of data points that comprise big data in each field. Analytics will come to the forefront and allow SMEs to use big data to create meaningful marketing plans, modify business directions and factor in business requirements.

Many industries already use big data to create new revenue streams and better understand their particular industry. We all know about Facebook and their marketing capabilities and Google’s search capabilities, but what about the Mormon Church and ancestry.com?

There is a little known project within the Mormon Church to map the heredity of everyone on the planet. That in itself is a huge project, and I can only hypothesise as to the church’s reasoning for conducting this research, which I won’t do here.

If you consider that there are 7 billion people with a minimum of 200 data points each, then you will realise that this is an incredible amount of information stored in one corporation’s database. Often that information is given freely by people who sign up, or conduct a search or go off on a tangent on the website.

It is a natural human curiosity to discover who our ancestors are, where they lived and whether or not they were well known. My father conducted such a project in the 1970s, and traced our family back to Dumfries, Scotland in the 1300s, when our forefather was hung for stealing sheep. There were some interesting characters in our family, not overly famous, but definitely interesting.

Today many people turn to ancestry.com to find information they are searching for in regards to their pasts. The organisation’s claim of possessing the largest range of hereditary information anywhere on the planet is probably true. In our haste to use this resource and to find out more about ourselves, we sometimes forget that this information has to be paid for in some way.

Oftentimes the payment is monetary, but sometimes the “payment” we make results from the searches and connections we create when using their platform. Sometimes the information and connections are funny and interesting, but there is also a darker side.

One of the reasons I am very wary of using a platform that provides my family information to someone else, is that it results in me losing control of my personal information.

Consider this hypothetical scenario: You look back at your family tree and find that your great grandmother and her four sisters all died of breast cancer; your grandmother died of the disease as well, and your mother has been diagnosed with it. All your searches on the site are recorded. Therefore, your private information is now a little more public. To you this may be devastating; to an insurance company this is pure gold.

Big data is here to stay. The information gathered for most big data sets is usually freely given by people who use the portal, or it is gathered from freely available information on other portals.

Hopefully the collectors and sorters of this information are also going to protect it correctly, because criminal organisations will find the information to be very lucrative. Of course, we have yet to see.

Roger Smith, is an educator. Teaching students at ADFA (UNSW) and showing them how vulnerable they are to cybercrime.

He is also CEO at R & I ICT Consulting Services Pty Ltd, an Amazon #1 author on Cybercrime and founder of the SME Security Framework. He is a Consultant who specialises in inexpensive and highly effective security strategies for small and medium businesses and not for profit organisations.

He has developed and authored the SME Security Framework and the Security Policy Training Course which are considered to be the definitive guides to helping SME's protect their organisation using the principles of Technology, Management, Adaptability and Compliance.

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