Big Data is Watching You
by Win Noren
Recently, I have heard people express concern about the data security of the US government’s new health care portal. Certainly, it is reasonable to be concerned about the security of this information, as the impact of a security breach with that information would be huge. The cost of identity theft to the individual whose identity is stolen cannot be counted by just the monetary cost, as the frustration and time spent on restoring your identity is not trivial.
While you can attend any number of conferences about big data and the benefits that companies can reap from this data, it is much rarer to hear anyone addressing the privacy concerns surrounding the use of big data. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to data that has been provided directly to a business through the transactions that you execute with that business, but it also applies to the data that we as individuals make public through our use of social media and various smart devices.
Rather than telling you how much our own social media posts reveal, watch this “social media experiment” by Jack Vale, a “man who pranks people for a living.”
Microsoft principal researcher Kate Crawford is warning that data mining of personal data will create a problem of digital discrimination that will be so subtle that one won’t even know that she has been discriminated against. Let’s say that a bank does not want to lend to a certain segment of the population. They could simply analyze customer behavior to determine where to advertise so that they do not even promote themselves to this segment of the population. Crawford states, “It’s not that big data is effectively discriminating — it is, we know that it is. It’s that you will never actually know what those discriminations are.”
So, what do you think? What type of mechanisms do we need to protect ourselves from Big Data?