The digital universe is vast. By 2020 it will contain nearly as many digital bits as there are stars in the physical universe. It doubles in size every two years, and the pace of growth shows no signs of slowing down.
Powering this growth is our fascination with sharing information.
We live in an age where people like to share who they are, where they’ve been and what they’ve done.
‘Shares’ are like crumb trails that can be easily and openly followed by anyone. They also lead to better understanding of a person’s viewpoint, background and behaviour.
The reality of sharing
Marketing and brand professionals have been quick to recognise the value of our desire to share. They see it as a great way to improve their understanding of consumer trends and behaviours. This in turn enables new products to be more relevant and appealing. Sharing itself is also an invaluable tool in supporting crime and fraud investigation teams on a global basis. In this way, teams can provide evidence of activity even in areas difficult to investigate.
- In 2012, while official news channels were reporting Putin’s denials of any intention to invade the Ukraine, social media investigation tools showed Russian soldiers posting selfies at the border in front of their tanks.
- In the US, the Pentagon uses the same technology to detect the use of social media within its walls. This ensures that people don’t inadvertently reveal their whereabouts and activity to criminals or terrorist gangs.
A post is worth a thousand words.
The data that identifies us as individuals goes beyond a name or address. An Instagram picture or Facebook post can now prove an activity or behaviour that paints a much truer picture of what is really going on.
There has been a massive shift in the way organisations use social media data over the past few years. The most compelling use is in combating crime and terrorism. Crowd-sourcing can give a view of what has really happened, without the need for expensive and resource draining manual investigation.
By looking across open and fully consented data on social networks, technology can now effectively pull out intelligence on a global scale. In the current climate of cybercrime and terrorist threats, it’s a resource well worth investigating further.