What is Data Mining?

Data mining has become a big concern for many people throughout the world and this concern isn’t just limited to people who are heavily invested in technology. As more and more people entrust their personal, private data in consumer technology, their data becomes more open to the peering eyes of others. This has led to a large wave of people who have begun to take stringent data-protection precautions more seriously on consumer devices. Understanding what data mining is and how it is used can be an important part of being an informed technological consumer.

A Practical Definition

In the simplest possible terms, data mining is defined as the process of analyzing large amounts of data to generate actionable information on a given subject. Data is used by corporations and the government in this way all of the time. In fact, just about anyone who has surfed on the Internet for long enough has been subjected to data mining at some point. This is especially true with people who frequent social networking websites or other sites that implant tracking cookies.

Tracking cookies are bits of code that are implanted in a web browser when a user visits a certain website. Web developers use a broad range of different cookies and these cookies all do different things. When the cookie is implanted by a website, it tracks the websites that the computer user visits. This data gets put into a very small, limited-use database that is stored within the code of the cookie. When the user returns to the website that implanted the cookie, software analyzes this data and interprets it to understand browsing trends. In other words, the software mines the data in the cookie for useful information.

The most common result of data mining using cookies is in the form of targeted advertising. This is a form of advertising that shows Internet users ads for products or services that match up with their browsing history. For example, if someone commonly browses camera websites, that user will be shown camera ads when reading or watching sponsored content.

There are many other forms of data mining used by both companies and federal agencies. The federal government mines data of all sorts using sophisticated computer technologies that track the metadata of phone conversations and instant messages on social media. The technology has progressed to the point where it is now a foregone conclusion that Internet users will be tracked by someone when they go online.

Put it All Together

For the most part, data mining is a completely harmless way for advertisers to provide targeted advertisements to customers. In truth, studies have shown that consumers actually prefer the targeted ads over random ads that existed before this data mining took place. Despite this, it’s smart for consumers to take some common-sense precautions to keep their important data from falling into the wrong hands. When smart precautions are taken, data mining becomes less and less of a danger to consumer safety.

For more information, take a look at The Data Mining Business.