The only information that individuals, organizations and nations are really interested in is private information – the information that is unavailable. You decide to buy a second hand car. The seller has much more information on the condition of the car than you do – this is the seller’s private information – the information you really want. Big data and analytics represent an attempt to infer private information. What will this customer want next? Is this person likely to defraud? What are my customers really thinking?
Information that is readily available is generally worthless, and the unmeasurable amount of information available on the Internet might have some casual, everyday utility, but for serious commercial purposes it is almost useless. Analytics is a determined attempt to get under the skin of these data and extract private information by seeking patterns that betray intent.
Most consumers are generally happy to have their private information invaded in this way, particularly if it means a better deal next time they shop. However for individuals and organizations who are not so happy with this situation there are obvious strategies to throw the analytics off-course. By deliberately giving out false signals the data mining algorithms will misclassify. Insider traders, cyber-criminals, defrauders and others who need to keep their private information to themselves can throw a curveball at the algorithms, particularly if they know how they work. And the savvy consumer might want to throw a few curveballs too. Feigning indifference to a product offering might result in a better deal.
Those familiar with game theory will already see where this is going – players in the game trying to decipher the strategies of other players, be they consumers, criminals, suppliers or employees. People who object to their private information being inferred from the data they generate can play the game too. Deliberate creation of misinformation and analysis of other player’s information are actions available to all of us, and it could be much more interesting than some online game with no real consequences.