Data Exhaust: Your Online Activity Helps Businesses Succeed


What’s your daily digital routine? Whether it begins by responding to e-mails or scanning the news feed on Facebook, most of us begin our day by interacting with the outside world. If you’ve become accustomed to this schedule, like me, you probably don’t put much thought into it. It’s essentially like second nature. Well, then, here’s something to think about: did you know that your online activity creates your personal data exhaust, which in turn helps businesses succeed?

Your Data Exhaust Matters To Companies

Before you can even tackle this question, you’re probably wondering what data exhaust is. Data exhaust is the compilation of information from your online activity, both intentional and unintentional. While this used to be considered as “exhaust” and was simply disregarded, modern companies have discovered the value in transforming this unstructured information. Now, they can better understand consumer behavior, preferences, and way of life.

So, believe it or not, your personalized information is a whole lot more valuable than you could ever imagine. As a matter of fact, research has projected that within the next four years the Big Data (just a fancy word for the abundance of available information) sector will be worth $235 billion. That’s right – I said billion.

Google Taking Its Cue From Microsoft's Spell Check

While the concept of data exhaust and its explanation may make it sound complicated, it’s really not. Google, the leader in data exhaust, modeled its search engine after the Microsoft Word Spell Check program. The only difference being that Google learned to profit from this system by considering all data valuable, even the misspelled words in search queries. Not only do internet users get their desired information from searching in Google, but also Google continually adds to their comprehensive data exhaust list. If you look at it this way, it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Opportunity For Job Growth

Google’s success in the big data sector has inspired other companies to jump on board. Considering that this sector will create job opportunities for 1.5 million managers in the U.S. alone by the year 2018, this is a smart move. The only set back is that success is not guaranteed for these companies, and could even be more difficult. As Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier outline in their book, Big Data, “data exhaust can be a huge competitive advantage for companies” (115). After all, in an industry that relies heavily on the compilation of data over time, those that have been in the industry longer will undoubtedly have more extensive data exhaust.

Maintain Your Digital Routine

As a consumer, all you need to worry about are your own actions. Be reassured knowing that your seemingly unimportant online activities will help companies become more successful in serving you as a customer. In turn, this means greater satisfaction on your end.