Be aware of Big Data’s downside
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?