2014 Lane Reports

What's the Big Deal About Big Data?

The Lane Report, November 2014
Monday, November 3, 2014 10:00 am
by Cori A. Mathis

Have you ever searched for an item on the Internet and found advertisements for that same type of product on websites that you visit later? Have you purchased a product from the grocery store and then received coupons from other companies with competitive products?

Practically every major retailer is engaging in Big Data. Big Data is most often defined as the application of artificial intelligence to the vast amount of digital data that is now available. When you consider the number of retail purchases, Internet searches, Facebook posts, and tweets that occur every single day, you can imagine the amount of digital data that is constantly being generated. The government and law enforcement are also engaging in Big Data, but the focus of this article is on how Big Data is being used, and should be used, by retailers.

Retailers are using digital data to gain insight on how their products and services are being perceived by the public and to identify consumers that are prone to purchase their products and services. One of the most targeted groups of consumers appears to be expectant mothers. Many retailers believe that if they can identify expectant mothers and send targeted advertisements, they have a chance of gaining a loyal shopper for years. To that end, retailers will gather and analyze thousands of pieces of data to determine how likely it is that a shopper is pregnant and will then send diaper and formula coupons to those shoppers. In a few years, those same shoppers may receive coupons for school supplies and children’s apparel and shoes when summer is ending. This type of targeted advertising is invaluable to retailers.

There are benefits to Big Data for consumers as well. Many consumers would prefer to receive an advertisement or a coupon on their cell phone for a product that they’ve bought in the past as opposed to receiving a mailing full of advertisements and coupons for things that don’t pertain to their lives at all. A college student living in her first apartment does not need or want advertisements or coupons from roofing companies or daycares, but is likely to appreciate a coupon sent to her cell phone from her local pizza place.

The major concern with Big Data is privacy. Almost universally, consumers do not want their personal information sold or misused. In May 2000, the Federal Trade Commission released the Fair Information Practice Principles. The FTC’s proposed privacy guidelines for consumer-oriented commercial websites include notice, choice, access, and security. Website owners should disclose to consumers what personal information is being collected and how that information will be used. Website owners would also be required to offer consumers choices as to how their personal information is used, offer consumers reasonable access to the personal information that has been collected about them, and take reasonable steps to protect the information they collect.

The FTC also promotes self-regulation through various online privacy seal programs. Website owners can implement certain privacy practices and submit to compliance monitoring. If they are approved through the privacy seal program, they have the right to display a privacy seal on their website.

Several states have enacted laws related to internet privacy and California is known to have the most aggressive laws on this subject. California’s Online Privacy Protection Act was enacted in 2003 and was the first law in the United States that required owners of commercial websites to conspicuously post a privacy policy if they collect personally identifiable information from California residents. Website owners must adopt privacy policies that identify the categories of personal information that are being collected from their visitors, describes how that information will be used, identifies any third parties with whom the website owner may share the personal information, and provides a process for visitors to review and request changes to their personal information.

In 2010, the FTC proposed a Do Not Track (DNT) browser signal as a way for consumers to choose whether to allow the collection and use of data relating to their Internet searching activities. Most major browsing companies have implemented the DNT signal in their browsers and in May 2014 the White House stated that consumers have a valid interest in the DNT signal.

In 2013, California amended its Online Privacy Protection Act to require disclosures about online tracking in privacy policies as to whether or not that website honors the DNT signal and whether or not any other parties are conducting online tracking on the site. We suspect that many other states will follow suit.

Digital data is an invaluable tool for companies and a convenience for consumers, but it needs to be handled properly.

The Law Offices of Marc J. Lane will be happy to help you manage your privacy procedures and draft your privacy policies. For further information, please contact Marc J. Lane in confidence via email at [email protected] or via telephone at (312) 372-1040.

Peterborough's problem was daunting: Sixty percent of prisoners serving short-term sentences historically had gone on to re-offend within a year after their release. But policymakers were confident that a solution was within their reach. They attracted private investment to pay experienced social service agencies to provide intensive, multidisciplinary support to short-term prisoners, preparing them to re-enter society and succeed outside the penal system. - See more at: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20131007/OPINION/131009850/a-new-kind-of-futures-contract-for-illinois#sthash.ThgxeiFt.dpuf

The world's first social impact bond, or SIB, was introduced in 2010 to fund innovative social programs that realistically might reduce recidivism by ex-offenders in Peterborough, England, and, with it, the public costs of housing and feeding repeat offenders. Prudently building on the strengths of that initiative, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is rolling out SIBs to help solve some of the state's most vexing social problems.

A SIB isn't a traditional bond where investors are guaranteed a fixed return but a contract among a government agency that agrees to pay for improved social outcomes, a private financing intermediary and private investors. SIBs shift the risk of experimenting with promising but untested intervention strategies from government to private capital markets, with public funds expended only after targeted social benefits have been achieved.

Peterborough's problem was daunting: Sixty percent of prisoners serving short-term sentences historically had gone on to re-offend within a year after their release. But policymakers were confident that a solution was within their reach. They attracted private investment to pay experienced social service agencies to provide intensive, multidisciplinary support to short-term prisoners, preparing them to re-enter society and succeed outside the penal system.

The government decided which goals would be supported, but exactly how those goals would be achieved was left to the private sector. It was the investors, through a bond-issuing organization, who ultimately endorsed the allocation of investment proceeds — how much would be invested in job training, drug rehabilitation and other interventions.

If the Peterborough plan eventually shrinks recidivism rates by 7.5 percent or more, the government will repay the investors' capital and share the taxpayers' savings with them, delivering up to a 13 percent return. If the target isn't hit, the investment will have failed and the government will owe the investors nothing.

Illinois' SIB effort was spearheaded by the state's Task Force on Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise — the governor's think tank on social issues, which I am privileged to chair — with support from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Aurora-based Dunham Fund. A request for information issued by the Office of Management and Budget on May 13 yielded responses from service providers eager not only to reduce recidivism here but also to create jobs, revitalize communities, improve public health outcomes, curb youth violence, cut high school dropout rates and alleviate poverty.

Now the governor has issued a request for proposals intended to spur better outcomes for Illinois' most at-risk youth — by increasing placement stability and reducing re-arrests for youth in the state's Department of Children and Family Services, and by improving educational achievement and living-wage employment opportunities justice-involved youth most likely to re-offend upon returning to their communities.

Kudos to Mr. Quinn for bringing SIBs to Illinois. May they soon start delivering on their promise.

- See more at: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20131007/OPINION/131009850/a-new-kind-of-futures-contract-for-illinois#sthash.ThgxeiFt.dpuf
The world's first social impact bond, or SIB, was introduced in 2010 to fund innovative social programs that realistically might reduce recidivism by ex-offenders in Peterborough, England, and, with it, the public costs of housing and feeding repeat offenders. Prudently building on the strengths of that initiative, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is rolling out SIBs to help solve some of the state's most vexing social problems. - See more at: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20131007/OPINION/131009850/a-new-kind-of-futures-contract-for-illinois#sthash.ThgxeiFt.dpuf

Cori A. Mathis is a Principal with The Law Offices of Marc J. Lane, a Professional Corporation.  Ms. Mathis is a graduate of De Paul University College of Law (J.D.) and the University of Illinois (B.A.S.).


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