Big Data: Is it Good or Evil?
By Optism Team, Dec 14, 2012
We all live in a world ruled by data. People are creating large amounts of data and how companies are analyzing all the “big data” has become a hotly debated issue from a privacy and permission perspective. In an interesting viewpoint, Carl Kalapesi analyzes where the privacy lines are being drawn. He focuses not on one side of the debate or another, but instead tries to find the elusive middle ground.
He begins by explaining the numerous benefits of the Big Data which is achieved when one combines data from different sources to deliver insights and development, both socially and economically. However, public opinion is still focused on the negative aspects of big data, and considers things like security breaches and privacy abuse.
Mr. Kalapesi says Big Data and Personal Data are not so different. In fact, big data is essentially just a large gathering of personal data that is used for insights and ideas that will better the future, if used correctly. Data itself is neither good nor bad, it is simply whether or not it is being used or abused by those who obtain it. As the organization #WeTheData says “how can we get data to work for us, and not against us?” Kalapesi offers three ways to do just that.
- Mr. Kalapesi says we must stop the notion that data belongs to anyone, it has multiple creators and therefore multiple owners. It is key that we stop thinking about exclusive ownership, and start caring more about the usage of the data itself. We cannot shut down the flow of data, we just have to make sure it is a safe and trusted stream.
- He says that in any debate, public opinion is paramount. With so much talk about the negative things that Big Data causes, public opinion has swayed to assume that it’s all against them. Kalapesi mentions the Wall Street Journal, and questions why they never print a positive word about the benefits of Big Data, and instead have seemingly heightened the fear almost like propaganda to start a war on data. There needs to be equal representation on both sides of the debate.
- Mr. Kalapesi takes issue with the way websites ask for “consent.” The idea that we each essentially lie when asked if we’ve read the 70+ page terms of agreement because we just want to continue the process and can’t be bothered with the terms. While it is each of our responsibilities to know what we’re agreeing to, companies have the obligation to present this information in a clear and concise way. Sites have been making some strides in this area. Kalapesi cites British Telecom (BT) and their “cookie slider” that allows users to know exactly what they are agreeing to and how much access BT will have.
The privacy issue is not going away. Companies who meet this issue head on, with clear privacy statements, will benefit. Companies need to highlight not just the policies, but also give consumers the benefits that big data can deliver now and in the future.
Right now this issue is not black and white, as there are no two clear sides, just a muddy mass of grey. We hope that changes for the better.