Web Summit is watching you

Paddy Cosgrave outlines Big Brother benefits of collecting data on summit attendees

Watching you: Paddy Cosgrave, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the 2014 Web Summit in Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Watching you: Paddy Cosgrave, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the 2014 Web Summit in Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

Paddy Cosgrave was in Dublin this week to talk to an audience of digital marketers and other techies about preparations for the upcoming Web Summit, which takes place in Lisbon in November.

Much more interesting, however, was an article Cosgrave wrote and posted on Medium. com laying out its application of mathematical theory to help it improve its conferences and the experiences of delegates.

Cosgrave has long argued that Web Summit is not just a tech conference, but a tech company in its own right. He wasn’t kidding. In his article, he outlined how it hoovers up and stores billions of individual items of data on the people who attend its event. It then uses mathematical theory to make sense of this data, and come up with suggestions such as, for example, beside whom a delegate should be seated at a Web Summit dinner.

Web Summit, he revealed, has compiled a databank on 130 million people, cogged from data some of those people supplied when interacting with its various websites and apps, and elsewhere, such as social media profiles.

“At a macro-scale, this data allows us to peer deeper into who you really are and how you fit into the world of Web Summit, in particular what dinners we should invite you to and to what tables we should assign you,” wrote Cosgrave.

“At a micro-scale, we also consider all the interactions you’ve had so far related to or at Web Summit, past or present. This can include, but is not limited to, who you’ve chatted to, whose profiles you’ve viewed, which talks you almost certainly attended or planned to attend, who messaged you, who viewed your profile, location information, the hotel you are staying at, your activity on all of our emails ever, and almost every other data point you create through Web Summit or leave a trace of on the public web.”

This is similar to the technology and algorithims used by the likes of Google to target ads or Facebook to suggest who you should be “friends” with.

Big brother, eat your heart out.

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