The digital revolution of the first decade of the 21st century now has all of us producing vast amounts of data, just by going about our daily lives. Today we are swimming in an ocean of data, most of which didn’t exist even a few years ago. One of the defining challenges of the second decade will be to harness this new “unnatural resource” for both commercial profit and public good.
A great deal of the “big data” out there is user-generated content available on the open web — news stories, blogs, social networks, etc. But a great deal of it isn’t. Instead, it’s what’s called “massive passive data” or “data exhaust.” It’s the personal data corporations collect about what products their customers buy and about how they use digital services. Corporations today are mining this data to gain a real-time understanding of their customers, identify new markets, and make investment decisions. This is the data that powers business, which the World Economic Forum has described as a new asset class.