Be aware of Big Data’s down­side

The Herald (South Africa) - - BUSINESS - Bev Han­cock – Bev Han­cock – MD, Kamva Lead­er­ship In­sti­tute

I HAVE just fin­ished read­ing James Pat­ter­son’s new book, called The Store, where an online store takes sin­is­ter con­trol of the lives of its cus­tomers.

The re­ally scary part is that it did not seem be­yond the realm of pos­si­bil­ity.

Ev­ery time we com­mu­ni­cate, pur­chase an item, watch a movie or do a Google search we are con­tribut­ing to the in­creas­ing body of Big Data.

As a con­cept Big Data is an ex­cit­ing one for busi­ness as it of­fers the abil­ity to more ac­cu­rately pre­dict trends, seg­ment tar­get au­di­ences, pre­dict be­hav­iour and rad­i­cally im­prove de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

Or­der a book for your Kin­dle and within hours you will start re­ceiv­ing rec­om­men­da­tions based on your choice and ads cen­tred on your per­sonal pref­er­ences start ap­pear­ing on your Face­book feed.

With each up­date on your so­cial feeds, con­tent is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly per­son­alised.

As more and more trans­ac­tions take place online, the puz­zle pieces of our lives are there for the tak­ing.

Re­cently, a group of busi­ness­women at­tended a free event where contact de­tails were col­lected.

The fol­low­ing day, they re­ceived an e-mail from one of the spon­sors, which sparked a rig­or­ous de­bate re­gard­ing the use of contact in­for­ma­tion with­out ex­press per­mis­sion.

The Pro­tec­tion of Per­sonal In­for­ma­tion Act will de­ter­mine how per­sonal data should be man­aged and stored.

But does it ex­tend far enough to pro­tect the bi­o­log­i­cal in­for­ma­tion that is now be­ing col­lected through fit­bits, cell­phones and Ap­ple Watches? As the dig­i­tal and bi­o­log­i­cal con­nect, Big Data now can get ac­cess to our height, weight, heart rate, blood pres­sure, ex­er­cise regime and even in some cir­cum­stances our DNA pro­file.

While this is great to get your free smoothie for meet­ing your health goal, who has ac­cess to this data?

What im­pact could it have on in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums and health­care de­ci­sions?

When you filled out the de­tails on the app, did you read the terms and con­di­tions?

As neu­ro­science crosses into the world of busi­ness, will there be a time soon that when you do an em­ployee engagement sur­vey they will read your brain re­sponse rather than your ver­bal re­sponse?

This begs the ques­tion – how pri­vate are our thoughts?

So, what is the lead­er­ship re­sponse to pri­vacy and do we have the lux­ury of wait­ing for govern­ment leg­is­la­tion?

I be­lieve the re­sponse needs to be both ag­ile and in­ten­tional.

Poli­cies around gov­er­nance and ethics need to en­sure that per­sonal in­for­ma­tion is ringfenced with ac­cess per­mis­sion be­ing in the hands of the in­di­vid­ual.

There is also a need for a deeper in­di­vid­ual aware­ness and ac­count­abil­ity.

It is about ask­ing the right ques­tions and mak­ing choices.

Be aware that ev­ery time you pro­vide in­for­ma­tion you are opt­ing into some­thing – find out what it is and re­mem­ber noth­ing is free and ev­ery in­ter­ac­tion on the web leaves a trail of bread­crumbs.

Do you know who is col­lect­ing yours?

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