Contrary to widespread belief, when it comes to advertising and privacy, advertisers don’t care about what we do or where we go. They solely care about one thing — getting us to buy the stuff they are selling. And if that is true, we cannot help but ask — “What’s the harm in that?” After all, sometimes it can be nice to see a relevant-to-you ad when you are looking for a particular item online or a coupon delivered to your mobile device when you are near one of your favorite stores.
It looks like a harmless trade-off: a little bit of your personal information in exchange for some helpful, free service that could save you some money.
But here’s the trouble: a piece of information we freely share is not only used by these advertisers to sell stuff to us. It is likewise used by the big corporations of the world, plus a bunch of other data players for a myriad of reasons — and we don’t have control over any of it.
Privacy Issues in a Big Data Industry
The privacy discussion is not something new — to users, companies, or government agencies. What we see, though, is that this discussion is shifting from IT, development, and legal to the boardroom and our clients.
Big data is the main contributor to this shift. We are all generating data at a remarkable rate — a rate that, at the moment, exceeds our ability to accurately capture, process, store and analyze this data for any meaningful insight in a timely manner.
Please do not take this in a wrong way — we are making significant progress with big data technologies, but we cannot depend on technology alone to address the hurdles big data has brought to the privacy table. Let us check and consider a few of these challenges:
Right to privacy. Who holds our personal data, and what are we or “they” allowed to do with it? What presumptions can we make about the personal data we share online?
The Internet Age. We live our lives in public and digital space where any person, company, or agency throughout the world can watch us, whether we want it or not.
Security. Between data breaches and hostile hackers, will our data ever really be secure? As data flow increases, so do the opportunities for data breaches.
Trust. Trust is at the base of the privacy issue and is the glue that is going to keep the data ecosystem together.
Ethics. Technology has leapfrogged ethics, bringing us to the age-old question of what we can do versus what we should do. A good example is a tricky connection between GDPR and artificial intelligence.
No borders. Data, in itself, has no country, respects no law, and travels freely across borders. In the digital era, there are no geographical borders. And yet, most governments have attempted to put restrictions on how their citizens’ data is used — for example, the General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union.
Transparency. If significant decisions are being made about us based on an algorithm and big data, we have a right to know how the algorithm works and what data it utilizes. It’s shocking that many of the ways big data is being used are shrouded in secrecy.
As you can see, the big data privacy issues are not just about behavioral advertising, as some would have you believe. Instead, it’s a much-needed, complex debate about how we can balance privacy, security, and safety in an increasingly transparent and dangerous world. We should have that discussion before it becomes too late.
What do you think about big data privacy issues? Join us on social media and let’s discuss it.