Privacy killed the Big Data star


Big Data is all about limiting our privacy. With Big Data, we get no privacy at all. Hello, Big Brother is watching us and we have to stop it right now!

Well, this is far too cruel. Big Data is NOT all about limiting our privacy. Just to make it clear: I see the benefits of Big Data. However, there are a lot of people out there that are afraid of Big Data because of privacy. The thing I want to state first: Big Data is not NSA, Privacy, Facebook or whatever surveillance technology you can think of. Of course, it is often enabled by Big Data technologies. I see this discussion often and I recently came across an event, that stated stated that Big Data is bad and it limits our privacy. I say, this is bullsh##.

The event I am talking about stated that Big Data is bad, it is limiting our privacy and it needs to be stopped. It is a statement that only sees one side of the topic. I agree that the continuous monitoring of people by secret services isn’t great and we need to do something about it. But this is not Big Data. I agree that Facebook is limiting my privacy. I significantly reduced the amount of time spending on Facebook and don’t use the mobile Apps. This needs to change.

However, this not Big Data. This are companies/organisations doing something that is not ok. Big Data is much more than that. Big Data is not just evil, it is great for many aspects:

  • Big Data in healthcare can save thousands, if not millions of lives by improving medicine, vaccination and finding correlations for chronically ill people to improve their treatment. Nowadays, we can decode the DNA in short time, which helps a lot of people!
  • Big Data in agriculture can improve how we produce foods. Since the global population is growing, we need to get more productive in order to feed everyone.
  • Big Data can improve the stability and reliability of IT systems by providing real-time analytics. Logs are analysed in real-time to react to incidents before they happen.
  • Big Data can – and actually does – improve the reliability of devices and machines. An example is that of medicine devices. A company in this field could reduce the time the devices had an outage from weeks to only hours! This does not just save money, it also saves lives!
  • There are many other use-cases in that field, where Big Data is great

We need to start to work together instead of just calling something bad because it seems to be so. No technology is good or evil, there are always some bad things but also some good things. It is necessary to see all sides of a technology. The conference I was talking about gave me the inspiration to write this article as it is so small-minded.

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Published by

Mario Meir-Huber

I work as Big Data Architect for Microsoft. With this role, I support my customers in applying Big Data technologies - mainly Hadoop/Spark - for their use-cases. I also teach this topic at various universities and frequently speak at various Conferences. In 2010 I wrote a book about Cloud Computing, which is often used at German & Austrian Universities. In my home country (Austria) I am part of several organisations on Big Data.

2 thoughts on “Privacy killed the Big Data star”

  1. Temptation has a way of impacting actions. After all, look at the top three goals of big data investments: improving operations, enhancing the customer experience and developing new products. The customer experience in particular can influence an organization to delve a little further away from privacy policies, especially to customize offerings and help customers feel a sense of being special. However, an organization with a respectable level of data maturity will not only protect, but ultimately respect customer privacy. I think it’s a tough balance, but one that can be accomplished as organizations realize the true value within possessing customer data.

    Peter Fretty, IDG blogger working on behalf of SAS

    1. Sure, absolutely. It is necessary to respect privacy and to think about a strategy how to deal with that. At the end of the day, they are customers, not products.

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