FEATURE26 January 2022

The history of the data economy: The future of data

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Data analytics Features Impact Innovations Technology

Data is now the fuel that drives business – identifying potential markets, shaping new products and targeting consumers. Impact has partnered with Significance, the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society, to jointly publish a series exploring the past, present and future of the data economy. In this fourth and final part, Timandra Harkness considers what the coming years have in store for the data industries.


Do you want to feel special? Go to coveryourtracks.eff.org and click the ‘Test Your Browser’ button. That’s how I found out that my web browser fingerprint is unique among the 220, 694 that the Electronic Frontier Foundation tested in the previous 45 days.

This was a surprise. It means that even if I refuse tracking cookies – which I do – advertisers can still follow me around different websites, using a combination of innocuous details such as my browser version, screen size, graphics setup and system fonts.

In short, getting rid of third-party cookies, as Google has promised to do from its Chrome browser by late 2023, will not bring the online data economy to a screeching halt. But that doesn’t mean things will carry on as before. Major changes are afoot in the data-driven industries, spurred by privacy concerns, tightening regulation, and technological advances.

Federated learning

In this series, we followed the progress of statistical and computing methods for ...