Big Data and Your Privacy

Data Analytics has become an ever present need in the world of business today, and with all this data that is being created how much of it is information you don’t want others to have. Some good questions to consider are do you value your privacy? Can such a thing be possible in the digital age that we live in? What can I do to limit my online exposure? These are things that people need to really think about if privacy is a concern for them. Now, before I make it sound like Big Data is a bad thing let me clarify. Big Data has been a huge boon to companies and organizations that need to make important decisions with a low degree of error. Hospitals, Airlines and Public Services have greatly improved due to the amount of data that they have access to and the better decisions they have been able to make. We live in a time where millions of gigabytes of data is being created daily with researchers estimating to be 44 trillion GB by 2020, and with this amount of data we as individuals have to decide what we value more. I also want to preface this by saying that I am an IS major and my interest is in Data Analytics, so don’t take this as I’m against Big Data. Without further ado, take a look at some of the privacy concerns that Big Data presents in the future and possibly how to handle these new issues.

  1. Privacy Breaches

    This one is probably the most obvious of the bunch, but think about it, how many people have some kind of social media account and then how many of those same people will claim to value their privacy? Think about just how much Kroger and Target know about your shopping habits. They have their rewards program that is able to recommend what coupons you get and when you get them. For example, the teenage girl who received birth control coupons in the mail from Target. Her parents were so infuriated with Target for doing that, only to find out from their daughter that she was in fact pregnant. Target was able to look at her buying habits and make a very specific recommendation to her. This was not only an embarrassment for the daughter, but for the retailer as well. It is, in a way, a businesses responsibility to make sure that a situation like this doesn’t happen.

  2. Data Exist Forever

    This is something that everyone with any kind of social media account needs to always be thinking about. What you post online never goes away, even if you “delete” it. Nothing ever just disappears from the digital world. Something that you as a user need to remember is that organizations don’t ever plan on dumping their “old” data either. The whole premise behind data warehouses and big data is the archival and historical data that is collected is just as valuable as present day data. From their perspective that post you made on facebook 10 years ago is still relevant to them and their process of analyzing data.

  3. Little Legal Protection

    Since Big Data is relatively new for many businesses, granted data warehouses aren’t exactly new, the laws surrounding user privacy and whatnot are relatively old. While several government entities and countries around the world have recognized and have expressed concern about our growth in public data available for big data analytics, there is currently no legal protection available at this time when it comes to your data being used in big data analytics.

  4. Unethical Behavior Could Happen

    Big Data analytics ultimately can and will influence how companies make decisions for their future. This can lead to some companies making unethical decisions at the expense of their customers. Now this is a worst case scenario but a very real one. For the sake of argument, that a company ran some test on data from an experiment on their cars safety, and they found that certain safety flaws in their design. They ran the numbers and found out that it would be more cost effective to not do a recall and just play the field with the potential lost of human life if anything happened. Now this isn’t something that happens too often but it is something to definitely consider when companies have access to the personal data that you put out their because they can learn things about you that you might not want them to know.

  5. Anonymous?

    This concept of being anonymous is going by the wayside to many users in this generation. Kids today have facebook, twitter and instagram accounts and are broadcasting their entire lives for the world to see. With so much data, and with powerful analytics, it could become impossible to completely remove the ability to identify an individual if there are no rules established for the use of anonymized data files. For example, if one anonymized data set was combined with another completely separate data base, without first determining if any other data items should be removed prior to combining to protect anonymity, it is possible individuals could be re-identified. The important and necessary key that is usually missing is establishing the rules and policies for how anonymized data files can be combined and used together.

With these factors in mind you should have a better idea of what it means when you want to post your location on facebook or put certain pieces of personal information on public sites/wifi. There is a real security risk to yourself and it is ultimately your responsibility to protect your data. The government or powers that be have not modernized laws to protect users and right now it is up to private and public companies to decide how they want to use your data. Think about that next time you post something.

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