Data Economy

Silicon Valley Snowdens are a 'paranoid' bunch

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Paranoid programmers

Edward Snowden would fit right in, in Silicon Valley. Two in five software engineers working on big data solutions say that government agencies are tracking the data they're collecting, creating, and analyzing. And if you only ask those who are confident they could tell if the government was indeed spying on their data, that number goes up to 59 percent, according to a new study from Evans Data, reported on by VentureBeat.

U.S. and Soviet spies during the Cold War assumed it wasn't just their enemy but their own government keeping tabs on them, so maybe this really isn't paranoia at all, but just the facts of life in the brave new world of meta data-crunching by the world's superpowers.

"Big data and big government both bring unique challenges," said Janel Garvin, CEO of Evans Data. "Security becomes not only a technical issue but can also become a policy issue that developers may not be able to address. In addition, cloud platforms, while providing necessary scalability for big data, may also increase the risk of governmental eavesdropping."

(Read more: Using big data to search for Bigfoot)

'Moneyball' misplay

The fields and arenas of professional sports are a testing ground for the return on investment that's possible from data analytics, and nothing did as much to popularize the concept of big data in sports as "Moneyball." But maybe the data gospel has gone too far in the sports world? Are teams really gaining a competitive edge from data analytics that is worth the investment, or could it soon become an area of diminishing returns, especially outside of Moneyball's specific sport's example: baseball. Dallas Mavericks owner and data fan Mark Cuban would likely say no, but how does he make use of data in a sport like basketball, where a point can be scored from anywhere at any time. Nine innings, 27 outs, 25 possibilities on every play—it all makes baseball the only "natural" for data analytics in the professional sports context.

Surprising ways that companies are using your data

Mention big data to the average person on the street and you'll often get a yawn—or outrage. It's an overarching term that generally brings one of two things to mind: the NSA's PRISM project or automated suggestions at major e-commerce sites. Either way, the assumption is it's not something that affects their day-to-day lives. But there's a lot more to big data than snooping and up-selling. And, as it becomes an increased part of business life, it's having a bigger impact on everyday occurrences than you might realize.

Google's little birdie

Google has overhauled its search algorithm to keep up with the complexity of search requests. The recently launched "Hummingbird" algo affects 90 percent of worldwide searches via Google, the company said. Traditional "Boolean" or keyword-based systems begin deteriorating because of the need to match concepts and meanings in addition to words, and "Hummingbird" is Google's effort to match the meaning of queries with that of documents on the Internet, senior vice president of search Amit Singhal told reporters who gathered this past week at the garage where Sergey Brin and Larry Page first conceived of the company. The press event coincided with the 15th anniversary of Google, but can Google really do enough to stay ahead of the tech curve, with more than 3 billion searches a day—not to mention its far flung interests including renewable energy and driverless cars—or are Google's best days behind it?

(Read more: The guy who wants to give you the power of IBM)

Apple's China deal is coming

Wall Street was mighty disappointed when the new Apple iPhone launch did not include news of a deal with China Mobile, the world's largest wireless carrier, but it might be on the way, according to some China Mobile marketing documents leaked this past week.

Watching your wearables

If you think it's creepy how much marketers know about you now, just wait until they get their hands on data collected by wearable computers and other new technologies. Because wearable computers are capable of collecting very personalized information about the wearer, it creates new, highly effective way for marketers to get consumers' attention. Google Glass can tell where you are looking when out shopping, and when you actually cross into the store. Welcome to the brave new world of consumer snooping.

Twitter's second screen pass

Twitter plans to carry instant-replay footage from National Football League games as part of a new advertising partnership that could boost the social media company's revenue. It's Twitter's biggest sports-related commitment to date for its Amplify service. Amplify was formally unveiled last May as a way for Twitter, broadcasters and advertisers to capitalize on people's use of social media while they watch TV—a phenomenon called "second screen" viewing. Amplify allows broadcasters to show video clips and ads through tweets that are coordinated with what is being shown on TV.

(Read more: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas ... as data)

Bringing big data to the masses
Bringing big data to the masses

Instagram ambulance chasers

So Facebook's Instagram is no longer to be ad-free. Pinterest also announced recently that it will soon begin testing a new ad strategy. This can mean only one thing: Where advertisers go, data analytics firms will follow, especially where there is an endless stream of data from the masses to attempt to monetize. Posting has become a big lab experiment for Madison Avenue, and the social media companies are eager to prove their relevance to corporations, specifically, in terms of return on investment for ad dollars. Sentiment analysis and engagement are quickly becoming cottage industries for Twitter and Facebook content, including this new Instagram business from data analysis firm CrowdBabble.

Alibaba's censored IPO?

Concerns surrounding economically sensitive "big data" gleaned from user transactions on Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's businesses may delay the company's planned U.S. listing, banking sources told CNBC this past week, leading some to speculate that Beijing may even exert pressure on the company to list in Hong Kong.

And in this week's installment of the debate over big data's worth ...

It's little data, not big data, that often make a big difference in the business world, argues Vishal Sankhla, co-founder and CTO of Viralheat in a post for Or in the least, little data gives big data a run for its money. Small data is about businesses finding ways to build loyalty, appreciation and respect, especially in an era of social media.

By Eric Rosenbaum,