Data Is Mined!

Contributor: Jay Gregorio. Lesson ID: 13228

You play games, watch videos, listen to your favorite music, or take quizzes online. But have you ever thought about who's watching what you do, and how they use this information? This is data mining!


Computer Science, Practical Life Skills

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Social media sites know you exceptionally well.

  • How well do you know them?
  • Do you know what happens when you sign up, make comments, or even like posts?

social media

Social media has revolutionized the way we communicate with each other. As of 2020, these were some of the most popular social networks:

  • Facebook with 2.8 billion monthly active users
  • Instagram with 1 billion monthly active users
  • TikTok with 689 million monthly active users
  • Snapchat with 347 million monthly active users

Each of those users represents an email address, phone number, and other data that can legally be used in any way these companies see fit based on their terms and conditions.

  • How do they use your information?
  • Can they trace your online activities based on your clicks and what you like?
  • Do they mine this data and sell it to other companies who need it?

In this lesson, we will explore the answers to these questions!

You need a new pair of shoes, so you search for a pair online. Then, the next time you use social media, you see advertisements for those very same shoes.

  • How does that happen?
  • Do these companies track what you do online and communicate with each other?

What Is Data Mining?

data mining

Data is any useful information that is stored and later analyzed to help in any decision-making.

For example, a business owner wants to discover how best to grow the business. The owner may want to look at the sales data to see which items are selling fast and which are not. Analyzing how the time of year as well as how promotions, and advertisements affected sales will also be required.

Once the owner discovers the reasons why people buy certain products, he or she can make decisions in order to make more profit.

The process of looking at and tracking the buying behavior of customers over a certain period of time is a form of data mining.

Data mining in computer science is finding new information from a set of data.

Everything you do online is saved in a database, which is a huge collection of raw data used for a specific purpose. The purpose varies depending on the need.

In some cases, companies sell this data to others. It is important to read the terms and conditions to which you agree when you sign up for websites or applications to see if you are giving permission for your information to be used in any legal way without your further consent.

  • What types of data are mined?

Business Transactions

Every successful business transaction is based on something working, from a great price to a perfectly timed sale to well-targeted ads or promotions to a popular social media influencer.

All these business transactions, such as the number of sales, customer purchases, and product exchanges, are recorded and stored for future use.

Personal Information

Personal information is just that, information that is personal to you, including your email address, phone number, and ZIP code. Most sites require you to submit this information when signing up and use it to verify yourself in the future.

Personal information also includes your online activity. Everything you click, search, watch, read, and interact with is collected and stored. Most of this is valuable data for many different companies.

To learn more, watch What is Data Mining? from NJIT:

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IP Address: The Gateway to Data Mining

  • How do these companies collect the information in the first place?

Think about those shoes you searched for that popped up in your social media feed. This happens because every time you are connected to the internet, the internet can track you using your IP address.

IP is short for Internet Protocol. Every device that connects to the internet has a unique number, its IP address, that is linked to all the online activites performed by that device.

These IP addresses grant the device permission to access the internet through your service provider.

For example, you type the brand of shoe you want into the Google search bar. Google receives your IP address, validates it, and provides you access to that information.

Companies then use IP targeting to capture all those searches and save them as data attached to your unique IP.

The goal of IP targeting is to provide you with a customized online experience that only shows you advertisements related to your searches. If you only ever search different types of shoes, your advertisements across all online platforms will be limited to different types of shoes!

What's Next?

When you buy something online, that data is stored and used to show you future advertisements related to that purchase based on the assumption that you are more likely to buy related products.

Data is mined everywhere. You are constantly tracked online without your knowledge.

At the end of the day, what matters most is online safety. Being mindful of your online searches is the first step!

Keep going in the Got It? section to review the most important data mining concepts!

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