Blog: Big Data…Big Responsibility…Big Question?

All around us big data is being collected. From tasks ranging from making a purchase online to taking a selfie and posting it to social media sites, data is being collected…

In medicine, this harvesting of big data is been used for the greater good. One such practice is happening here in Corks Maternity hospital. Researchers are collecting blood samples from 1500 pregnant women to screen for pre-eclampsia, growth restriction and pre-term birth with the aim of reducing childbirth complications. With one blood sample they hope to predict a woman’s entire pregnancy course.

Another practice happening in farming is the robotic milking parlours. These systems  allow the cattle to wander in from the field without human intervention. While the cows are milked by the robot, big data is been collected which is transformed into useful data for the farmer such as total milk produce, refusals, yield etc. The farmer can use this data to make better decisions regarding his herd.

These are just some examples of the sheer volume of data been collected every day. And it’s not just restricted to medicine or farming. Data is collected every time you shop online, log onto your social media account or just ‘like’ something.

But what happens to that data? Who gets access to it? More importantly, what do they do with it?

Privacy activists are concerned with the volume of data been gathered every day. One such activist requested, in paper format, his sparse social media activity over 3 years. It ran to 1300+ pages. Some of it was data he uploaded himself, but more of it was ‘background’ information or data derived from others. For e.g., if he was tagged in a photo someone else posted.

Note that under the Data Protection law, companies should tell you what they use your data for. But laws cannot keep up with how fast the technology is moving. This is particularly poignant in Ireland where so many of these corporations’ European Head Quarters’ are based.

To regulate digital law in the future, scientists are looking to the past. In particular to the Magna Carta from 1215.

Everybody including the king is subject to the law!

We now need a ‘Magna Carta’ for the digital age to enshrine fundamental rights online. I.e., a bill of rights, who owns what piece of information. Individuals have control of their own data and decide who uses it and what for. But this could also spell an end to our ‘free’ access to social media.

Big data holds incredible potential for the future to learn about the human condition. But there is also a real need for regulation.

*Information reference source – Cloud Control

I hope you find this Blog post informative – for the potential it holds but also to ensure that regulatory compliance is  being adhered to when it comes to our Data!

 Lisa Mulcahy is a Business Analytics Consultant @ ProStrategy 

 Contact ProStrategy @ 01-4291977

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