The Ethics of Big Data Personal Privacy


 The Ethics of Big Data Personal Privacy

Dan Dubriwny Big Data & Information
Management AT&T Integrated Account

Does it stop? How? Should it? At the beginning of the Big Data era, the promise was to collect any data and do analytics on it like never before. Never before. Mere mortals could tease out new and profitable or money/time saving insights from the tsunami-blaze of data that hit us minute by minute. I was fortunate to be included as one of the original members of the IBM Big Data Tiger team in 2011. It was a new approach to just about everything I was in the front row of this technology roll out. The questions I fielded tended to be around: “What do you do with this data” and “we have powerful data warehouses, what is different with this ‘unstructured’ stuff”? We had the three “V”’s: Volume, Variety, Velocity (later we added a fourth “V” called Veracity and I fought against including – I was wrong – subject of another article). What happened?

This article focuses on a (perhaps) unexpected consequence of the upcoming regulation:

Volume: We were talking Petabyte’s in 2011 – we are at Exabyte’s today. Data doubling every 14 months in 2014? Now every six months?

Variety: Text, Video, Audio, Signal – all growing insanely – especially IOT – that will, and is exploding.

Velocity: This is multidimensional. The rate of change in data is much higher – the amount of NEW data is increasing and changing and not necessarily replacing the “old” data. Now we are expanding streaming and real-time reactions to big data.

Most organizations cannot hope to control this. More security attacks, more breaches in privacy, more hyper-insight on what you are doing. The concern I am focused on in this article is the USE of that data.

We experience the follow regularly; search on Google for something very specific, a short time later you see an ad for exactly what you searched for on a news site. You are used to this, big deal, right? Well, it is a big deal and will be a bigger deal shortly. The issues are exposed in the next two steps that are being taken – not just predicting what your next purchase SHOULD be, but expanding from there: Reporting to government agencies what you are buying. Example: you purchase shooting glasses online, a trigger goes off in a big data system, for national security the FBI has decided to ask for insight into who is purchasing gun related items, but you purchased the glasses because – they looked cool. Now you are on an FBI watch list.

Actually, there are controls (no comment on how effective they are) on what the government can watch in big data, but almost NO controls on private enterprise. It’s even worse for mobile. I have approximately 60 apps on my personal phone. Almost every one of the apps wants my me to allow it to access my location data. EVEN MY CALCULATOR wants my location data. WHAT FOR! I hope most of you say no to those requests. There is only one reason for a calculator app to want your location data, so they can sell it. 257X3.5 is 899.5 where I am now as well as in Atlanta or Las Vegas. Speaking of Las Vegas, I wonder what happens when my mobile device discovers I am there. Even if you play a slot machine without a loyalty card, someone is recording your location and probably your betting through IoT integrations with the machine. You do not need to phone to communicate with the slot machine to figure that out. There is a follow-on article coming on the ethics of IoT i.e. what is your refrigerator or thermostat saying about you? .

Do we really need these devices? But that is not the pertinent question: can we not have everyone spy on us as we use them. Our privacy is wide open to invasion. Now many people I know (admittedly myself sometimes included) will not turn on location services (like I said above) knowing that most of the apps I use do not keep a record of where I go. I KNOW the new face recognition phone-unlock feature on the iPhone X does NOT record my face and does NOT share it with others. BUT (you where ready for that I bet), can you be sure?

New laws will not do anything but make things MUCH more complex. Is there a way to self-monitor and use market and social forces to push back against all the surveillance? The current social media and search corporations will not be the place for that social pushback. They benefit the most (so far) from gathering big data and selling/using/manipulating it.

Perhaps there are business plans for new or existing companies to combat rampant data gathering. Perhaps a new set of social platforms that demand privacy and rejects big data mining on individuals could be developed. People have to make a stand and push back. This is NOT to say that Next Best Action analytical applications are bad or that big data is bad, it’s the social surveillance that is my concern.

Big Data Analytics is a boon to most industries. Efficiency applications for Manufacturing, Supply Chain, Network, and Security derive breakthrough results. Other applications from Retail to even Road Safety benefit from Big Data Analytics. It’s time for us to stand back and push back on big data gathering just for the sake or for the sale of it. I am interested in your ideas and comments.

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