I recently read Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. It was an interesting read that focused on the raw power of Big Data and the insights that can be achieved by looking at the online footprint of an entire population.

The book covers a series of case studies that summarize three major powers of Big Data:

  • It can extract information from unconventional sources (ex: Sabermetrics)
  • There is inherent honesty in the information collected (people can lie on surveys, but they can’t lie to Google about what they search).
  • Due to the sample size, it can narrow in on very subtle effects (ex: the way Google and Facebook do AB testing for their websites)

Big data, while powerful, does come with its limitations:

  • While it can give insights on population behavior, it gives very little insight into individual behavior.
  • Some companies use big data in questionable ways. For instance, using A/B testing to tweak features and make a website more addictive.

Overall, I recommend this book for anyone hoping to get a better understanding of what exactly “Big Data” is and how it’s being used.