I recently received a phone call from a local restaurant chain famous for the cookies it markets for the various holidays. The caller asked me if I wanted a special deal for that community event I was planning. They had the wrong David Maloney.
I also got a call not long ago from the Cleveland Clinic seeking information about transferring a patient. The clinic had my name and phone number right, but I have nothing to do with patient transfers.
We regularly receive mail at our address for our son, who has not lived at home since he left for college 17 years ago.
One of our staff editors recently learned that her medical records contained information from another patient with the exact same name. That could have been disastrous if the mix-up hadn’t been discovered when the doctor’s office attempted to follow up on the surgery she never had.
It is estimated that some 94 zettabytes of data will be generated this year—a number that’s expected to grow to 149 zettabytes by 2024 (a zettabyte is equal to a trillion gigabytes, or a “1” followed by 21 zeros). Another estimate shows that every human on the planet creates more than 1.7 megabytes of data daily. And that volume is growing, as we tweet, stream, email, text, post to social media, and Internet-search our way through modern life.
I think most people would be surprised if they actually read the intentionally complex consent agreements we casually agree to each time we download an app. By signing those agreements, we often unwittingly allow the company to track our online movements and location as well as collect data from our emails, texts, and more. We agree to all that in exchange for the “free” software.
As a result, it regularly happens that when I’m away from home on business and do an Internet search on my laptop, a Facebook ad pops up on my wife’s phone for the exact product or business I just searched for hundreds of miles away.
As an example of how important data has become in our world, I recently overheard a conversation between two people at a conference. One mentioned that his son had just gotten a job working in data for one of the country’s largest grocery chains. Surprisingly, he said that the grocer is investing in its data capabilities because it now earns more from the data it obtains through loyalty programs than it does by selling groceries.
It used to be that speed was king in supply chains, but now data has assumed the throne. But how much of it is accurate? That’s just another reminder that we need to take care with the data that has been entrusted to us.