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Byte by Byte

September 11, 2015

CloudDo you know where your personal data is going – or even how much is out there?

Each time you browse the web, post on social media, use your smartphone’s GPS or make a credit-card purchase, you generate records and build your data trail, which grows longer every day.

At the next STEM Café, NIU alumni and College of Business marketing instructors Alex Eddy and Brian Gillet will discuss how these data trails can affect our lives for better and worse, impacting everything from job applications to insurance rates.

Their free talk and discussion is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 22, at Eduardo’s Mexican Restaurant, 214 E. Lincoln Hwy.

“For almost everything we do, there is now a company trying to figure out how to capture data about it,” says Eddy, who designs data-driven marketing campaigns for the Fortune 500 company RR Donnelley. “But where does this data go? Who looks at it? Why?”

The purpose of the talk is not to make people scared or nervous about their data. Instead, attendees will come away knowing more about how data is collected, how they can avoid collection they do not want, and why not all collection is a bad thing.

Gillet, for example, uses data collection and analysis in his job at KishHealth Systems. “The health care industry is working on harnessing the data categorization techniques invented by Google, Facebook and LInkedIn and using them to improve patients’ experiences,” he says. “And there are several other uses that are similarly benign. The key is awareness.”

NIU Stem Cafe logoBoth Eddy and Gillet are NIU College of Business alumni who studied marketing as undergrads and information systems as graduate students. Currently, Eddy teaches interactive marketing technology and database marketing. Gillet teaches marketing strategy.

“We’ve all heard about data-gathering, but it’s hard to know how it relates to us, personally,” says NIU STEM Outreach associate Judith Dymond. “Alex Eddy and Brian Gillet will help us understand where we’re leaving our digital footprints, who is collecting our data and what they’re doing with it.”

This event is part of STEM Outreach’s series of monthly STEM Cafés, all of which are free and open to the public. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from Eduardo’s. In addition to the STEM Café series, NIU STEM Outreach hosts other engaging events throughout the year to increase public awareness of the critical roles the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – play in our everyday lives.

For more information, call (815) 753-4751 or email [email protected].

by Peter C. Baker