People sometimes ask me what does it mean when sociopaths say they datamine. Basically they are collecting information about you in an effort to predict your future behavior and what might please or displease you. In this way, they are not much different than Google, Facebook, Orkut, or the other programs that kids are into these days. This was a good description of how these programs work, from Mind Hacks:
The Economist has an excellent article that discusses the increasingly diverse ways in which information from your social network – drawn from services like Facebook, or from telephone calls or payment patterns – are being used to obtain personal information about you.
This is not information which you have explicitly stated or included, but which can be found out or ‘mined’ from your patterns of behaviour and your connections to other people.
And from the Economist article mentioned, the fascinating way in which phone companies target trend-setting customers:Similarly, sociopaths watch your behavior to figure out who you are. It can be something as small as the way you grip a steering wheel when you drive or whether you break prolonged eye contact and when. The sociopath collects all of this information about you and mentally references it to the thousands of other people he has collected information from, coming up with a rough sketch of who you are. As marketers have known for centuries, people that like certain things will probably like other similar things.
Telecoms operators naturally prize mobile-phone subscribers who spend a lot, but some thriftier customers, it turns out, are actually more valuable. Known as “influencers”, these subscribers frequently persuade their friends, family and colleagues to follow them when they switch to a rival operator. The trick, then, is to identify such trendsetting subscribers and keep them on board with special discounts and promotions. People at the top of the office or social pecking order often receive quick callbacks, do not worry about calling other people late at night and tend to get more calls at times when social events are most often organised, such as Friday afternoons. Influential customers also reveal their clout by making long calls, while the calls they receive are generally short.
It's not hard to collect this information, the sociopath is paying attention to these little behavioral responses anyway to make sure that he is remaining undetected. And it's hard not to notice certain very common human behavioral patterns, once you've been made aware of them.
After the sociopath has collected all of this information, he can use it in various ways. He can use it to better construct his own masks to stay hidden. He can use it to anticipate your every need and desire. Or he can use it to get into your mind and plant yet another type of mine. That's the mining that you really should be worried about, and the only way that the sociopath can set traps in your mind is if you have weaknesses or needs that you refuse to address yourself.
Apart from that, datamining of any type is relatively harmless. It's basically just catering to your expectations.