Look Ahead 2013

What to Expect This Year in the World of Data

The Social-Data Pipes Are Closing, and More Scientists Are Needed

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Happy New Year. Now get cracking: We outline challenges for 2013 and offer up some predictions

Number 1

Social-data pipes are closing

Social-media companies need developers of applications and services to help make their platforms more useful and engaging -- think of Tweetdeck for Twitter or Zynga's games on Facebook. However, as more popular social platforms have grown, they've become less willing to allow just anyone to access their increasingly valuable data.

This social-data tug-of-war was most exemplified by Twitter, which limited access to its data "firehose" and was sued by PeopleBrowsr, the social-analytics company built entirely on Twitter data. PeopleBrowsr claimed it paid Twitter $1 million to access its data.

While we can expect smaller social platforms to keep their data doors open, firms such as Facebook and

Twitter may continue the gradual blockade, creating new winners and losers in the app-development space and generating important revenue streams from a select few who can access the data.

Too much data, too few data scientists

More and more companies need or want a data quant, but there simply aren't enough computer scientists, mathematicians or engineers to go around. It's no wonder corporations have taken the bull by the horns and begun investing in educating tomorrow's data scientists.

Consulting firm Comrise is sponsoring big data-training sessions at colleges including Syracuse University and Cornell University. IBM -- another firm desperately seeking data geeks -- opened a facility in Columbus, Ohio, that will house hundreds of data staff. In the hopes of grooming people for these high-demand gigs, IBM partnered with Ohio State to develop coursework.

Similar activities are under way at New Jersey's Rutgers University. The school is looking for a professor to teach big-data classes and recently scored a National Science Foundation grant as part of its big-data research initiative.

When your kid says she wants to study math or science, a gentle nudge in the data direction may not be a bad idea.

Washington keeps up the pressure on privacy

Just before Congress left Washington for the holiday break, a Senate mobile-privacy bill moved past the committee stage, a first for any of the privacy bills floated in recent years in the House or Senate. While Republicans in the Senate Commerce Committee expressed concerns about certain aspects of Minnesota Democrat Al Franken's legislation, such as its potential burden on businesses, most voted for it anyway. The bill would require mobile-app companies to provide notice and obtain user consent when collecting geo-location data.

It's one of many privacy bills, but with the Federal Trade Commission-supported do-not-track development initiative at a standstill, lawmakers and the FTC are getting antsy. For many, the ad industry's self-regulatory approach is not a stringent-enough system. The FTC itself updated guidelines for internet-privacy protections for children in December.

Even if a comprehensive privacy law isn't passed in 2013, anticipate continuing pressure and lobbying on Capitol Hill from privacy advocates pushing for it and business groups hoping to squelch it.

Facebook will finally join industry's privacy program

Nearly all the big players in the online advertising ecosystem participate in the industry's self-regulatory coalition, the Digital Advertising Alliance. Facebook is a glaring omission. Though the company claims its own ad settings allow users to opt-out of receiving unwanted ads, new offerings including behavioral-ad targeting through third-party partners make Facebook's absence even more apparent.

Expect that to change. The pressure is on Facebook to join the DAA and start displaying the blue triangular icon.

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