Data mining is the process of examining a data set to extract certain patterns. Companies use this process to determine the outcome of their existing goals. They summarize this information into useful methods to create revenue and/or cut costs. When search engines are accessed, they begin to build lists of links from the first page it accesses. It continues this process throughout the site until it reaches the root page. This data not only includes text but also numbers and facts.
Data mining focuses on consumers in relation to both "internal" (price, product positioning), and "external" (competition, demographics) factors which help determine consumer price, customer satisfaction, and corporate profits. It also provides a link between separate transactions and analytical systems. Four types of relationships are sought with data mining:
- Classes - information used to increase traffic.
- Clusters - grouped to determine consumer preferences or logical relationships.
- Associations - used to group products normally bought together (i.e., bacon, eggs; milk, bread).
- Patterns - used to anticipate behavior trends.
This process provides numerous benefits to businesses, governments, society, and especially individuals as a whole. It starts with a cleaning process which removes errors and ensures consistency. Algorithms are then used to "mine" the data to establish patterns. With all new technology, there are positives and negatives. One negative issue that arises from the process is private. Although it is against the law, the selling of personal information over the Internet has occurred. Companies have to obtain certain personal information to be able to properly conduct their business. The problem is that the security systems in place are not adequately protecting this information.
From a customer viewpoint, data mining benefits businesses more than their interests. Their personal information is out there, possibly unprotected, and there is nothing they can do until a negative issue arises. On the other hand, from the business side, it helps enhance overall operations and aid in better customer satisfaction. In regards to the government, they use personal data to tighten security systems and protect the public from terrorism; however, they want to protect people's privacy rights as well. With numerous servers, databases, and websites out there, it becomes increasingly difficult to enforce stricter laws. The more information we introduce to the web, the greater the chances of someone hacking into this data.
Better security systems should be developed before data mining can truly benefit all parties involved. Privacy invasion can ruin people's lives. It can take months, even years, to regain a level of trust that our personal information will be protected. Benefits aside, the safety and well being of any human being should be the top priority.