Life in the 21st Century: There Is No Escaping the Data Sets

Hearing friends and acquaintances discuss their efforts to maintain data privacy is equal parts quaint and amusing. After all, we are no longer living in the 1990s. This is the 21st century. There is no escaping the endless data sets floating around in cyberspace. Each one of us is part of those data sets to one degree or another. There is no avoiding it.

The modern world runs on data. Virtually every organization, whether it is a private company, nonprofit, or government agency, makes heavy use of data. They all gather and store unimaginable amounts of data every year. They analyze that data for a variety of purposes. We are all caught in the web whether we want to be or not.

Government Databases Rule

One could make the case that government databases rule the world. Where private databases are almost always used exclusively for marketing purposes, government agencies do a lot more with data. Government data sets can be used for good or bad depending on those involved. Just knowing what government can do with data leads to the rather obvious question of how much of it they should have.

If you want just a glimpse into what the government possesses within its vast collection of data sets, take a look at the CDC website. Their data sets page offers links to ten databases covering everything from vaccinations to public health and tobacco use. It is a safe bet that all of us have contributed data to one or more of these data sets.

Where does the CDC get its data from? It might be easier to ask where it doesn’t get data from. At any rate, the CDC utilizes everything from consumer surveys to information supplied by hospitals and research facilities. If there is any data out there pertaining to public health, they will find a way to get their hands on it.

Private Databases Abound

While government databases may be more pervasive and thorough in their reach, private databases still abound. For example, that big box department store you frequently shop at is constantly collecting data on every purchase. It is also collecting data on customers. Every visit you make contributes to the data set.

Then there are organizations like iMedical Data. These are companies whose entire business models revolve around compiling data and selling it to those who need it. iMedical Data provides comprehensive data sets on advanced practice nurses to recruiters, marketers, and others.

The difference between private and government data sets is intent. Private data sets are utilized almost exclusively for business purposes. One data set might help a company improve its core products and services. Another is utilized to power their marketing campaigns. It is all about increasing revenues and profits.

Governments use data sets for entirely different reasons. Some data is critical to maintaining public safety. Other data, like that compiled by the CDC, is utilized to ensure the public health. Data sets make the military stronger, the IRS more effective in its collection efforts, and the Census Bureau more aware of cultural trends.

Data Is Everywhere

The reality of the 21st century is that data is everywhere. It is being collected, analyzed, and stored all around us. Most of us have gotten used to it. We no longer give a second thought to how much of our personal data is accessible by government agencies and businesses. Other people are greatly bothered by it. Unfortunately, their efforts to maintain data privacy are largely fruitless. There is no escaping the data sets of the 21st century.