Monday, April 23, 2012

Big Data Age Puts Privacy in Question as Information Becomes Currency

Krotoski, Aleks. "Big Data Age Puts Privacy in Question as Information Becomes Currency," in a special report, Battle for the Internet, The Guardian, April 22, 2012.

From the article: "The second decade of the 21st century is epitomised by Big Data. From the status updates, friendship connections and preferences generated by Facebook and Twitter to search strings on Google, locations on mobile phones and purchasing history on store cards, this is data that's too big to compute easily, yet is so rich that it is being used by institutions in the public and private sectors to identify what people want before they are even aware they want it.

The most important thing for data holders in the Big Data age is the kind of information they have access to. Facebook's projected $100bn value is based on the data it offers people who want to exploit its social graph. Its holdings include more than 800m records about who's in a user's social circle, relationship information, likes, dislikes, public and private messages and even physiological characteristics.

Fundamentally, privacy means the same thing in an era of Big Data as it always has, but the capacity of machines to capture, store, process, synthesise and analyse details about everyone has forced new boundaries. It is unlikely that people will stop sharing data in exchange for services that are viewed as valuable.

Big Data offers undeniable opportunities, but requires a delicate balance between the right to knowledge and the right of the individual. Privacy norms will demand that new systems of trust be built into technology design." Read more