Enterprise IT Watch Blog

Apr 16 2013   7:58AM GMT

Big identity is big data’s double-edge sword

Michael Tidmarsh Michael Tidmarsh Profile: Michael Tidmarsh


Big data image via Shutterstock

By James Kobielus (@jameskobielus)

Big data’s primary executive-level sponsors are chief marketing officers (CMOs). Consequently, it’s no surprise that big-data repositories are primarily populated with information on customers. To the extent that the CMO’s IT organization has linked diverse customer records to positive identifiers–a process often known as “identity resolution”–they can drive finely targeted marketing efforts.

These massive stores of customer identity information–let’s call them “big identity”–are the lifeblood of modern commerce. Social media, other Internet sites, and enterprise repositories manage a sprawling, heterogeneous, disconnected variety of identity information. Rolling up any particular individual’s various identities across these sites demands the massively parallel horsepower, specialized analytic tools, and high-capacity storage of a robust big-data infrastructure. Identity resolution leverages advanced algorithms to uniquely match the disparate identities that an individual or group might be using.

Identity resolution is the missing link between two important use cases of big data: social media analytics on the one hand and multichannel customer relationship management on the other. High-performance identity resolution is already a substantial application in customer data integration, data quality, master data management, and anti-fraud applications.

Social media monitoring, however, has yet to tap its potential. How else can we match the disparate identities that people go under in Twitter, Facebook, and other socials, both against each other and against the system-of-record identifiers that we keep on customers in our CRM, data warehousing, and other operational platforms? Without the ability to resolve some prospective customer’s social-sourced identities, how can we determine whether or not they’re an existing customer or a hot prospect?

The flip side of the “big identity” dream is the potential for high-powered violations of personal privacy. Some say big data is Big Brother’s chief tool for mass surveillance. Others say it opens a Pandora’s box for any grass-roots peeping-Tom to pry into other people’s affairs with the most powerful telescope ever invented. A cynic might say that social business–one of the hottest new focus areas in multichannel marketing and engagement–is all about everybody minding–and mining–everybody else’s business.

Privacy concerns are rooted deep in the heart of the online experience, which thrives on freewheeling give-and-take but can easily slip into oversharing, surveillance, cyberstalking, and intrusive targeting. Businesses should put privacy considerations at the core of our big-data strategies before customers demand it or the courts, regulatory bodies, and legislators decide to force our hands.

2  Comments on this Post

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  • FTClark
    The unfortunate paradigm of modern marketing is to push, push, push its products and services. The entire economy is based on forced consumerism (advertising). The problematic aspect is that the individual and their identity is assaulted by this constant push. Sometimes, some people want to be left alone or at least get a break from the pressure. This is also part of what leads to customer demands for privacy.
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  • TomLiotta
    "The unfortunate paradigm of modern marketing is to...".It's not clear why 'modern' was included there. It's the way 'marketing' has been for the entire existence of 'marketing'. That history has never had an era when some new invention didn't spread the word farther and faster..One difference of 'modern' marketing is that far more truth is now legally required in messages. ('Required', not 'guaranteed'.) Advertising from a century ago, for example,  could offer cures for all common illnesses in a single "New! Wonder Elixer!" with little concern for truth..There is no necessary reason to be more "assaulted" today than fifty years ago. It is from any individual's desire to watch more TV shows or browse more web pages. If the desires were instead to walk in the park or have personal conversations or other living activities, there would be little "assault". There is a major element of personal choice involved..-- Tom
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