As privacy concerns increase amidst the rise of big data and internet of things and companies continue to collect more data on their customers and begin to paint a picture of their lives; privacy is a major concern as we ask “how much is too much?” 

Big Data as we discussed in our Oct 2014 blog post refers to high volume structured and unstructured data that can be analysed to extract meaningful information. The internet of things (or internet of everything) is a network of connected objects, people, and ‘things’ that are each uniquely identifiable and communication is not limited to traditional methods of interactions.

For example a farmer can monitor his/her animals using a tablet or smartphone that connects to a microchip uniquely tagged to each animal. Another common example are the sensors in your automobile that can detect and alert you to issues requiring your attention. Big Data and the Internet of things (IoT) are certainly not new concepts and have existed for decades now but the data era has brought them to the forefront and with data growing at an exponential rate, the challenges and complexities are compounded.

 

Privacy and Security

One of the top concerns emerging from the big data IoT arena is Privacy. As we struggle with the task of extracting meaningful information from data that will help our companies upsell and gain a better understanding of their customers, we are faced with moral and ethical conflicts and often ask ourselves where do you draw the line? With connected data from social media to purchasing patterns, browsing history and other sensitive data the lines can easily become blurred or non-existent.

We live in an era where your phones, televisions, automobiles, major appliances all collect data about you and your household. There are persons labelled as conspiracy theorists who believe “big brother” is spying on us and secretly collecting personal information for some sort of future world domination and one world order. Whether you believe or not, the underlying concern cannot be ignored and privacy is a major concern as we become more connected to the things around us. The are also hackers who maliciously access personal data and this raises the issue of data security which is a key component in the privacy debate, especially in light of more companies moving towards cloud based solutions.

The “big deal”

While many persons are fine with sharing a reasonable amount of data with businesses, there is still almost a third of consumers who have no concern with how their data is being used and some may argue that if you have nothing to hide then “what’s the big deal?”

The “big deal” is that security and legislation are lagging as data continues to grow at an alarming rate. Google now processes on average over 40,000 search queries every second, there are 32 billion searches per month on Twitter and each month more than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube. Google, Twitter and Facebook represent some of the largest commercial organisations that collect data on customers which may later be analysed, sold and/or used for targeted marketing campaigns.

Companies collect and sell information about you as if you were a product that has been nicely packaged and marketed for willing buyers. In most situations, there are no opt-in or opt-out options and this is a clear breach of your privacy and while some persons may stay away from being connected and sharing their data, it is becoming increasingly difficult to disconnect from the world. Therefore, governments and regulatory bodies must apply greater urgency to address privacy concerns and clearly define policies for capturing, securing, mining and sharing personal information. 

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About the author: Raquel Seville [@quelzseville] is a Business Intelligence Professional, SAP Mentor, BI Evangelist, Founder: exportBI | Co-Founder: eatoutjamaicaTo find out more, please visit her about me page.

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