Home Articles The Big Data of You: How your online reputation shapes economic outcomes

The Big Data of You: How your online reputation shapes economic outcomes


Big data is dead. Well, not quite but as marketing companies focus on the latest buzzwords a more significant data trend is emerging. One in which personalised, micro data is collected, sorted and analysed to build an online reputation of each and every one of us.

The implications are enormous and will affect your ability to get a new job, access credit, make a restaurant booking and even get a date. Welcome to the Big Data of You.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that your online reputation is critical to your economic success. We read constantly about the big data phenomenon and how organisations – public and private – are using it to deliver better products and services to citizens and consumers.

However, so far big data has focused on aggregating large data sets that group people based on shared characteristics and behaviours. It’s your similarity to the group that matters, not you as an individual.

But in a world where the focus is on the big data of you this process is flipped on its head and instead begins at the personalised level. Your online behaviour now allows for a more intricate – and sometimes intimate – online profile of you.

Don’t panic just yet. While data about your online behaviour is available few organisations have figured out how to collect it and even fewer know how to turn it into an identifiable online reputation (at www.myonlinerep.com.au we believe we are one of the few).

But the ‘reputation economy’ is coming; a world in which your economic opportunities will be directly tied to your online reputation.

No less of an expert than Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google and co-author of ‘The New Digital Age’, has argued that ‘In the future, our identities in everyday life will come to be defined more and more by our virtual activities and associations … Identity will be the most valuable commodity for citizens in the future, and it will exist primarily online.’

But while there is no need to panic the community does need to wake up to this emerging trend. Consider some basic facts. Everyday over one billion names are searched online and 93 percent of recruiters check online profiles.

However, less than half of people report ever having searched themselves online. This lack of knowledge is a real concern. Over one-quarter of people have negative information appear about them on the first page of Google results and online fraud is on the rise with 238 identities stolen every minute and 63 million social profiles impersonating a real person.

‘In the future, our identities in everyday life will come to be defined more and more by our virtual activities and associations … Identity will be the most valuable commodity for citizens in the future, and it will exist primarily online.’

However, the implication of your online reputation and the power of the micro data it depends upon go way beyond fraud. Almost every aspect of your life will be affected.

Want a reservation to the hottest new restaurant? If you have a history of negative online restaurant reviews then drive-thru might be the best you can do.

Trying to rent a new apartment? Hope there aren’t too many Facebook posts about your party lifestyle and lack of permanent employment. Looking for a promotion or wanting to change jobs? If your online life isn’t consistent with the experience you claim to have you probably won’t even get to the interview stage.

Want a date? I’m sure they’ll get back to you even if your first page of Google results make you look like a stalker. And we haven’t even talked about getting a loan yet.

For some this will seem a massive intrusion of privacy and there will undoubtedly be calls to put in place regulatory protections. But in an online world national laws are only as good as the borders that define them and when the flow of data is global there is little that can be done to stem the tide. As the saying goes, all data wants to be free.

Of course there will be some public policy issues to consider. But rather than focusing on collection and use, policy makers should instead focus on ownership.

This will be a fundamental re-think for those in the ‘privacy industry’ who have a paternalistic preoccupation with protecting people from their data rather than allowing them to seize control of it and use it to their economic advantage. Data ownership and portability will become as important as a passport in the global, online world.

For consumers now is the time to act and the approach you take need not differ to the development and management of your reputation in the offline world.

First and foremost, remember that a reputation takes years to build and just minutes to destroy. One ill-conceived post, like or share could do immediate and serious damage no matter how many people have endorsed you for ‘strategy’ on LinkedIn.

Second be conscious of the reputation you are seeking to cultivate. If you claim to be academically minded, is there online evidence of significant contributions to your chosen field of study?

If you are a leader in your industry are you a regular speaker at events? If you are a professional model does your profile pic look like a drunken selfie? In short, consistency matters.

So does online real estate. What forums are you using to present yourself to the world? Do you even own your own domain name?

If you are renting your profile from a third party platform like LinkedIn or Facebook then you must remember that ultimately your reputation lives on a domain that you do not control.

Time is also critical. It takes months and years for a clear reputation to emerge and it is a task that must be pursued relentlessly. And one seemingly minor hiccup can create real challenges.

Our research shows that some of the worst online reputations are those of recently married women for no reason other than they have changed their surname severing their link with their old online profiles.

But ultimately this is a story of opportunity. Where once your online reputation was largely unknown to you, now you have the opportunity to review, manage and use it to your benefit. You’ll be in control of your data and decide how you want it used. You’ll decide who should have access and for what purpose.

In a world where data has become a commodity the Big Data of You will become the valuable ingredient necessary to turn big data insights into personalised outcomes.

Damian Karmelich is the co-founder of online reputation management and analytics company MYONLINEREP.