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In Data Management Last updated: January 27, 2023
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Dark data may contain hidden information that can be valuable for business operations.

With the right tools and techniques, Companies can uncover insights from dark data that can provide a competitive advantage.

Let’s see what dark data is all about and how to use it to make effective decisions.

What is Dark Data?

Dark data is data that is collected and stored by an organization but is not analyzed or used in any meaningful way. It is often referred to as “data that lies in the shadows” because it is not actively used or considered in decision-making processes.

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Here are a few examples of dark data:

  1. Customer feedback: Many companies collect customer feedback through surveys, but they may not analyze or use this data in any meaningful way.
  2. Social media data: Social media platforms generate vast amounts of data, such as posts, comments, and user interactions. While some organizations may use this data for marketing and customer engagement, much of it goes unanalyzed.
  3. Email attachments and inboxes: Many organizations have vast amounts of data stored in email attachments and inboxes. Even though some of this data may be analyzed or used, much of it goes unread and unused. This data can include valuable information such as customer feedback, sales leads, and internal communications.

Organizations may retain dark data for compliance purposes or record keeping, or they may believe that the data could be useful in the future once they have better technology and analytical capabilities to process it.

However, storing and securing data can be expensive, and there is always the risk that sensitive information could be exposed if the data is not properly managed.

As a result, it is important for organizations to carefully consider the value of their dark data and to develop strategies for collecting, storing, and analyzing it in a way that balances the potential benefits with the costs and risks.

How is dark data useful for organizations?


Dark data can be extremely valuable for organizations because it can provide insights and business intelligence that would otherwise be unavailable.

By analyzing dark data, Companies can gain a better understanding of their customers, operations, and market trends, which can help them make more informed decisions and improve their overall performance.

One of the main ways that dark data can help organizations recover lost opportunities is by identifying patterns and trends that were previously unseen.

For example, dark data analysis can reveal customer preferences, buying habits, and pain points, which can be used to improve services for customer satisfaction.

It can also help organizations identify and address operational inefficiencies, such as bottlenecks in production or supply chain processes, that can lead to cost savings and improved productivity.

How to Find the Dark Data?


Finding dark data can be a challenging task because it is often hidden within large data sets and may not be easily accessible. However, there are several methods that can be used to identify and locate dark data. Some of them include the following:

Data profiling

Data profiling involves analyzing the structure and content of data sets to understand their characteristics and potential value. This can help identify data sets that may be useful but have not been analyzed.

Data discovery tools

There are several data discovery tools available that can help organizations identify and locate dark data. These tools can scan data sets and identify patterns and relationships that can help identify valuable data.

Searching for specific keywords or phrases can help to locate data sets that may be relevant to their needs.

Data classification

Classifying data based on its relevance, value, and retention period can help organizations identify the data which is not used and can be deleted or archived.


This involves reviewing data access logs, system logs, and backups to identify data that has not been accessed or used in a long time.

It’s important to keep in mind that discovering dark data is a continuous process that needs constant analysis and observation to spot new data sets and modifications to existing data.

How Dark Data is Created?


Dark data is created when data is collected but not used or analyzed. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including:

#1. Unstructured data

When data is collected in unstructured formats, such as emails, documents, or social media posts, making it is difficult to search, analyze, and use the data effectively.

#2. Lack of data governance

This occurs when an organization does not have policies and procedures in place for managing data, leading to data being collected and stored without any clear purpose or use.

#3. Data silos

Data silos refer to the isolation of data within an organization, where different departments or teams collect, store, and use data independently of one another. This can create a situation where data is not easily accessible or shareable across the organization.

#4. Using Legacy systems

If an organization continues to use old technologies that are not compatible with newer systems, it will be challenging to access or utilize the data stored on modern devices.

All of these scenarios can make data difficult to find and access, becoming dark data.


Dark data is a subset of big data that is not being used, while big data can include both dark and useful data.

Big data – Big data refers to all types of data within an enterprise, including both structured and unstructured data, that is considered for analytics and reporting purposes.

This can include data from various sources such as customer transactions, social media, sensor data, and log files. The volume, velocity, and variety of big data can make it challenging to process and analyze using traditional methods.

Dark data – Dark data, on the other hand, is any form of data (whether structured or unstructured) that is not accessible for reporting or analytics. Organizations may not be aware of the existence of dark data or may not have the resources or technology to analyze it.

Use Dark Data for Decision-Making


By using these steps, Organizations can effectively leverage the hidden potential of dark data to gain valuable insights and improve decision-making.

Identify the dark data

The first step is to identify and collect the relevant data. This can be done by conducting an inventory of the data that is currently being collected and stored but not being used.

Clean and organize the data

Once the dark data has been collected, It needs to be cleaned for further analysis. This may include removing duplicate data, correcting errors, and formatting it in a way that makes it easy to work with.

Analyze the data

After the data has been cleaned and organized, It can be analyzed to identify patterns and insights that help decision-making. This can be done using a variety of techniques, such as data mining, machine learning, and statistical analysis.

Communicate the results

The insights and findings generated from the dark data analysis must be communicated to the relevant stakeholders to support decision-making. This can be done through data visualization or report generation.

It is important to monitor the results and outcomes of the decisions made to evaluate their effectiveness and make adjustments as necessary.

Dark data can be useful in various contexts, including sentiment analysis, predictive maintenance, customer retention, and acquisition.

Having a clear plan and identifying the specific business use case for dark data can help in the efficient and effective utilization of the data.

Optimize the Value of Dark Data


There are several ways to optimize the value of dark data:

#1. Determine the business objectives

Identifying specific business objectives is the first step in optimizing the value of dark data. Without clear goals, it can be difficult to determine which data is relevant and how to analyze it.

For example, if the goal is to improve customer satisfaction, dark data from customer feedback should be prioritized.

#2. Select the appropriate tools

The choice of tools and techniques used to analyze dark data will depend on the specific business objectives and the type of data being analyzed.

For instance, Natural Language Processing (NLP) can be useful for analyzing unstructured data from customer feedback, while data mining can be useful for identifying trends in large datasets.

#3. Collaborate with cross-functional teams

Collaborating with cross-functional teams, such as IT, data science, and business units, can help ensure that dark data is analyzed in the context of the organization’s overall goals and strategies.

#4. Establish a Governance Framework

A Governance framework is necessary to ensure that the data is being used ethically and legally and to protect the privacy of the individuals. It also helps to ensure that the data is accurate, complete, and consistent.

Resources to Learn About Dark Data

Various resources are available for learning about dark data, such as books, articles, online courses, and tutorials. It’s important to try different resources and find the one that fits your learning style and expertise.

Additionally, it’s also a good idea to stay updated with the latest developments and trends in the field by following relevant blogs, forums, and industry experts.

#1. Dark Data: Why What You Don’t Know Matters

This book is a practical guide for understanding the concepts of dark data in depth. It consists of several real-world examples and case studies to make the concept easy to understand.

The author uses a variety of examples from different industries to illustrate the concepts discussed in the book. These examples make the book more relatable and easy to understand for readers from different backgrounds.

#2. Dark Data: Control, Alt, Delete

This book is an engaging and informative guide that provides a comprehensive overview of the challenges and opportunities of dark data in today’s digital age.

Preview Product Rating Price
Dark Data: Control, Alt, Delete Dark Data: Control, Alt, Delete $16.99

The author has provided a step-by-step guide on how to identify, collect, and analyze dark data, as well as how to use it to gain a competitive advantage in business.

#3. Dark Data and Dark Social

This is a must-read book for anyone who wants to stay ahead of the curve in the data-driven world.

And also, the author has covered a range of topics, including data governance, privacy, and security, making the book a valuable resource for anyone in the field of data science or business management.


Although dark data can be a useful resource for enterprises, its volume and complexity make it difficult to manage and analyze.

Organizations must have an established strategy for locating, gathering, and evaluating dark data to use it effectively. This includes investing in data management and analysis tools and hiring technical staff with the necessary skills and expertise.

You may also be interested in learning about the data classification concept for enhancing security.

  • Ashlin Jenifa
    Hey there, my name is Ashlin, and I’m a senior technical writer. I’ve been in the game for a while now, and I specialize in writing about all sorts of cool technology topics like Linux, Networking, Security, Dev Tools, Data Analytics, and Cloud… read more
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