Feeds

Big Data is bovine excrement says Obama's Big Data man

You probably have 'medium data' and are paranoid about privacy, says CTO

High performance access to file storage

Big Data is “bullshit”, says Harper Reed, Chief Technology Officer at Obama for America 2012.

Speaking at the CeBIT conference in Sydney, Australia, today, Reed said he encountered the the term “Big Data” in 2007 when it referred to a storage problem.

“We used it in 2007 because it was hard to store data,” he said. “People who did it were doing it well.” But not everyone was doing it well, knew how to or had the tools to do so. Six years later, the likes of Hadoop and Hbase mean storing and preparing large volumes of data for analysis are no longer difficult problems, he said, but the term “Big Data” persists.

Reed would rather it had not come into such wide use, if only because he feels most people contemplating an investment in “Big Data” probably don't have enough data to qualify for the term as he understands it.

Rayid Ghani, who shared the Sydney stage and worked alongside Reed as Chief Data Scientist on the Obama 2012 campaign agreed, revealing that his personal domestic storage rig stores more data than he used in the election campaign.

That revelation led Reed to opine that few of the attendees at the event have enough data to qualify as “Big”.

“You probably have medium data,” he said, and the term “Big Data” has now come to represent analytics tools, not the data itself.

Even if Big or Medium Data contains personal information, Ghani said analysis probably wouldn't use it to create eerily well-targeted offers.

“Data on what car you drive was not very useful in the campaign,” he said. “We did not use that much private data.” More useful, Reed said, was simple data points like a response to the question “do you support the President?” With a response to that question and information on whether an individual had voted in the past in hand, the Obama campaign was able to identify a voter as someone worthy of their attention.

Reed also cautioned old people – anyone over 25 in his big-beard-chunky-earrings-and-thick-framed-glasses world – not to panic on the topic of privacy. Oldsters are uneasy with the notion that Facebook et al mines their data he said. Young folk have no such qualms, understand the transactions they participate in and are more familiar with the privacy controls of the services they use.

Oldsters, he said, haven't bothered to learn how to operate those privacy controls and as a result assume their privacy worries are universal.

“Let's not project our fears onto others,” he said. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Number crunching suggests Yahoo! US is worth less than nothing
China and Japan holdings worth more than entire company
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.