How much data are we generating?
Ever wondered how much data the world is generating? Every click, scroll, tap, like, even every step, turn, and every other action that we do today, contributes to the generation of data.
Around 90% of the world’s digital data has just been created in the past 5 years and we are only generating data at record speeds and amounts.
As we are currently living in the Information Age, data is churned out every second every day. Every time we open our phones, laptops, PCs and devices, data is already being generated. Our machines have become so sophisticated that it tracks our every action and thus data is made. Bits of information whirl around every time we post an image, like a post, put out a tweet, or watch a video. Our devices have also become smart enough to have data about how we use our gadgets, our applications and even our appliances as we move towards having a smart ecosystem.
Before we dive into answering just how much information we create, let us first define some terms. A bit is the most basic unit of digital information; it is a portmanteau of “binary digit.” A bit is represented by a logical state with one of two possible values: “1” and “0”.
A byte then, is the smallest addressable or understandable unit of digital information of 8 bits.
To illustrate, the byte is a whole letter of the alphabet, while the bit is 8 elements or lines that make up this letter. A kilobyte or KB that’s about 1024 bytes is like a two-page essay while a megabyte or MB is a whole book. A gigabyte (GB) is a library of about 1600 books and a terabyte (TB) is 1 million 6 hundred thousand books.
Scaling up on these measurements, we then have the petabyte (PB) which is over 1,000 terabytes, an exabyte is 1,000 petabytes, and a zettabyte is over 1,000 exabytes.
Feeling dizzy? You should be, because in terms of how much data we made, we’re already talking about zettabytes worth of information. That’s a WHOLE LOT of libraries and books.
That’s a staggering amount of data we are talking about. Begs to ask the question: how are all these handled and stored?
Big data companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook have dedicated high-security physical facilities with high-tech systems to manage all our data. These mega facilities are also - one way or another - connected through a network of high-speed fiber-optic technology that allows for literal-light speed data transfers and communications. Smaller sites can outsource data management to those that offer data managing and handling services.
Now, just how much data are we making?
Let’s break it down:
Social media has taken a considerable chunk of the pie. These sites are very media-heavy, and the platform calls for interaction; each like, subscription, follow, retweet, reply, comment, react…generates data.
Facebook collects about 500 terabytes of data daily; that’s around 2.5 billion pieces of content, 2.7 billion likes, and 300 million photos. Approximately 1.8 billion people are estimated to be active on the site daily, with around five new users joining every second.
Instagram, which Facebook also owns, as a photo- and video-centric platform, collects around 95 million photos and videos every day, with 100 million people sharing through “stories”- a feature in the platform that lets your post be seen for a maximum of 24 hours. Out of the 600 million accounts, 400 million are considered active every day.
Twitter sees about 192 million daily active users, with around half a billion tweets sent each day; that’s around 5,800 tweets per second.
Snapchat has around 229 million daily active users worldwide, creating over 210 million daily snaps.
In the past year as the world has been hit with the COVID-19 pandemic and as we’ve been cooped up inside our homes and places, YouTube and Netflix have had a massive surge in their numbers. Understandably so as people look for something to binge on as we heed by pandemic restrictions.
Every time we hit send, we also create data. The 16 million text messages and the 160 billion emails also sent all contribute to data generation. Zoom also became a huge thing in the past year, as the platform blew up with around 300 million users using the platform.
As of 2020, 74 million Americans are subscribed to Netflix, watching 3.2 hours of video per day, that’s about 6 billion hours collectively. The platform has about 5,800 titles as of February 2021.
As the second most popular social network platform and (surprisingly so) the second most popular search engine, YouTube has 2.3 billion users worldwide, generating over 1 billion hours of video watch time every day, obviously making billions and billions of views. About 500 hours of video are uploaded every minute worldwide, which means 720,000 hours of content daily.
As the world’s biggest music streaming platform by subscribers, the 345 million users listen to a library of about 70 million songs, which is only growing at a rate of 60,000 songs per day.
Google and Amazon
Now onto the bigger players, Google handles more than 40,000 searches every second, which totals about 3.5 billion searched every day. Amazon processes data from their 152 million customers, selling about 4000 items per minute from the 1.9 million sellers active on the platform.
As we have been digitizing other aspects of our lives and making everything interconnected by utilizing the Internet of Things or IoT, data generation has also been racking up. IoT defines a digital ecosystem that allows our devices, house appliances, and every other smart gadget device to be able to communicate with each other. 127 devices are connected to the Internet every second, with 30 billion devices already connected in 2020.
All that said, to answer the million-byte question: we generate up to 2.5 quintillion bytes or 2.5 million terabytes of data daily. It is forecasted that by 2025, around 175 zettabytes of data will have been generated by then.
Issues on Data Privacy
These are HUGE numbers. And with anything that becomes huge, it doesn’t come without serious issues. With the staggering amount of data companies collect, concerns on how they are stored and treated, as well as how they are protected have been the driving point of consumers in the last couple of years.
Amazon and even other platforms have been known to use consumer data to predict and consumer behavior and mobilize strategies around what they collect. Ever wondered how just one time you mentioned you’d like a new desk, and you get targeted ads about desks as you scroll on social media? Yep, they’re listening, and possibly watching.
Perhaps one of the biggest data privacy scandals of the decade was the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, where over 87 million Facebook profile data were harvested. The harvested profile data were used to provide analytical assistance to the 2016 US Presidential Elections. Facebook was fined over 500,000 Pounds by the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office, and agreed with $100 million to settle with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for “misleading investors about the risks it faced from misuse of user data”.
Data is the New Oil
You’ve probably heard this: “data is the new oil”, and it is true. With the millions of terabytes we produce daily, it’s hard not to imagine that corporations haven’t used to capitalize on that. Another thing you’ve also probably heard of, is that when it comes to the services on the Internet, when you’re not paying for it, YOU are the product. Data mining and harvesting has been around and been operating right under our noses. Numerous cases of identity theft have been reported as credit card credentials, social security numbers, and other sensitive personal data have been mined to be sold on the black market or the dark web.
We might not realize just how much data we share on the Internet and just how much corporations, big data companies, and malicious organizations or individuals can do something out of what we provide unwittingly.
Despite this, this doesn’t seem to be slowing down just how we use the Internet.
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