Analytics are great! Analytics increase organizations profit and enhance our daily life. They help us make better choices, save us time, care about our health and delight us with fantastic discoveries. They are really fun and sexy!
But there’s also a dark side for Analytics…
Imagine yourself in the shoes of Winston Smith, main character of George Orwell’s book 1984. His life was controlled in all possible ways the author could think of, even inside his room there were telescreens through which his intimacy was exposed. You know, like those new smart TV’s that may listen our conversations at home. On his way to work to the ministry of truth, Winston had the constant feeling that someone was watching his moves, as if his GPS feature was always on. In Oceania, loud propaganda in the streets and surveillance were just as common as today is receiving unwanted e-mails or cookies saving our preferences. His job was to update the truth and rewrite history, just like you are used to hear several versions of the same news.
Despite the crushing presence of the big brother, he trusted in some fellow citizens, he fell in love, he risked his life against a totalitarian society, he was a human dealing with technology used in a perverse manner by a manipulative government. No matter what he did, who he talked to, someone had it all under control. Just like nowadays your web activity, chats, mails, calls, logins, transactions, are all recorded somewhere over the rainbow and shared through a sky full of clouds. Now you say “hold on mate, are you comparing 1984’s fiction with today?”. You bet I am!
Now join me into some dark thoughts over Analytics. If I was a dictator I would use my technological background to improve the greatness of my dictatorship. In addition to all those already expected controlling and abusive surveillance systems, such as video cameras all over my capital city or a secret service agency, I would set a budget to implement a massive electronic spying project and Analytics would be the core! Nothing would escape from my radar. If you write anything about me or my government on a social network, an instant linguistic analysis such as IBM’s Tone Analyzer would detect your feelings towards my magnificent leadership style. If you speak to my cameras my media networks would apply some facial expression recognition tools that allow me to understand your inner emotions, even with a brilliant disguise, your eyebrows or hand movements would expose your real reaction to my patriotic speeches. Even when you’re deciding or thinking, your eyes may leak your emotions, have you ever heard of eye-tracking and electrodermal response measurements? Today, this technique is used in (good) cause-related marketing for instance, but in my beloved nation I would use it to know people’s opinion without even talking to them. With these IT projects supporting Social Big Data, Data Mining and Real-time Analytics, I would probably consider suspending some citizen cards on elections day! There is a huge potential on Analytics to help me rule my totalitarian world, this would bring authoritarianism to a whole new level, an absolute control over Winston Smith’s last piece of humanity.
I’m ending this dark journey for now. This is a public discussion that should never stop because in what concerns to Analytics, as with the revolver or the atomic energy, it’s always mankind that decides what to do with it. So please don’t share this article with a dictator, let’s not make his life easier, ok?!