Big Data Security – A Big Deal

Today if we have an airline ticket that has come into Google mail and when the flight is about to take off, we get an update from them. This sounds amazing but do we realise how much an intrusion this is? That means there are bots that can read our Gmail at any given point of time.

In the era where Big data is trying to make every platform customised for us, privacy breaches becomes the biggest concern. How? Well, take for instance Pokemon Go, which is one of the biggest incarnations of the game series interacts with our GPS data. While so many players share their locations and other personal data with the app, what could happen to all that information? The answer is simple and equally perilous- while we are busy tracking Pokemon, Pokemon Go is tracking us down and giving away our personal details is the price we pay to “catch ‘em all”.

While we can’t agree to this more that Big data has emerged as the next big thing, an equally important concern is why security issues of Big Data have become such a big deal? Let’s have a look at some of the grey areas that are the real implementation hurdles for Big Data:

Firstly, it’s about the vague privacy policies of the apps we use. If an app developer decides to monetize advertising (as Facebook and Google do), it would be heavily paid by investors for collecting as much user data as possible and what the fine print in the privacy policy says in most cases? It collects data as a ‘Business asset’ and if the company gets sold, all the data can go to another company- Trite but true.

Secondly, it’s about the Analytical challenges. Here the important questions are: Does all data need to be stored? Does all data need to be analysed? How to find out which data points are really important? “People give out their data often without thinking about it and the consequences can be gruesome.”, said Viviane Reding (European commission vice-president). An example where a person discovered his teenage daughter was pregnant because coupons for baby food were arriving at his address from the store of a different city- speaks a lot about how far Big data can track us down.

Thirdly, the derived conclusions from unstructured data that includes every kind of data produced. From the status updates, friend requests, social calendars to search strings on Google, locations on mobile phones and purchase history. This is the data information that’s too cumbersome yet it is being used by institutions to identify what people want before they are even aware they want it.

Lastly, it’s about too much reliance on Big Data. Depending completely on data for decision making can be dodgy for a business. Many factors which are as critical as data, such as end results, planning, trust, respect, instinct etc. are often overlooked in a desire to blindly rely on data. The real concern in big data analytics should be a thorough understanding of the data being used to gather insights and provide more value to customer experience.

The main issue that we are currently negotiating is: Which is more important- Rights of the Individual or Rights of Knowledge?” Big data should aim for Privacy by Design which means companies  initiating a hallmark system that informs users that the privacy policy adheres to the guidelines.

According to me there should be a transparency in the system where users can choose the data they want to share with the company and if they really do so, they are truly interested as a customer; they want to get all the information  and want to get analysed of what they are doing.

And for the above positive changes to happen where people become aware of how these technologies work and of their tangible clear values and benefits, it will require time and an even balance between the Right to Knowledge and the Right to Individual.

The only hope is – Let that time come soon!