Internet trading company ebay on Monday announced the launch of its first big data lab in Israel, the first time it will make such data available for entities outside its employment.

The lab gives select applicants from academia and the start up community access to some 70 million gigabytes of anonymized data dating back to 2012. Each year, the lab will run three three-month sessions for the applicants who give the most interesting research questions.

“The idea is for them to come and try to prove something with the data we have,”  Yan Chelly, Manager of Big Data Lab & innovation programs in eBay Israel, told The Jerusalem Post.

The data, which does not include identifying information on the users, coversv user behavior on the website and operational data on worldwide trading activities.

According to Chelly, the company, which does not profit directly from the research findings, has three main reasons for launching the big data lab.

For one, it is an opportunity to find bright new talent that the company could potentially hire. Whatever products are developed or insights are discovered are ripe for ebay to partner with, acquire, or incorporate into its business plans.

Second, he said, it’s a way to “give back” to the high-tech community.

Lastly, it is a chance to help raise the company’s profile in Israel. “I don’t think that there is enough knowledge about ebay, that we have an office here and what we are doing here,” said Chelly. The Big Data lab was, in part, a step in plans to further grow its operations in Israel.

The first group, which consisted of three start-ups and five researchers, already completed their session under the radar at ebay’s Netanya facilities a week-and-a-half ago.

They used the data to evaluate questions such as how people’s online shopping habits change following a natural disaster or catastrophe, and whether there were any effects on buyers if men sold traditionally female items, or vice versa.

Ebay said it already has over 50 applications for the next round, beginning in April. Though applicants from Germany, Spain and the United States have sought access to ebay’s data, the company said it was not planning on opening a similar lab elsewhere in the world in the near future.


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