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Addressing the Ethical Issues of Big Data By @RicknotDelgado | @BigDataExpo #BigData

Big Data makes it possible for businesses to gather, store and use the unlimited personal and private data found on the internet

Addressing the Ethical Issues of Big Data
By Rick Delgado

Big Data is a growing trend, making it possible for businesses of every kind to gather, store, and use the unlimited personal and private data found on the internet. This massive collection allows them to predict trends, determine consumer tastes, and hone marketing plans for the greatest success. However, the concept of collecting vast amounts of information on people sounds dangerous all on its own; what keeps businesses from stepping over the line? What ethics code ensures consumer privacy along with corporate profit?

Here are three of the main concerns about Big Data’s ethics, and ways to combat the issues.

1. Working in Secret "Big brother is watching,” in the modern age is quickly becoming “Big Data is watching.” Many people fear that the invention of Big Data and the advantages it offers have encouraged businesses and organizations alike to overuse this tool, keeping a constant, vigilant eye on the public. Even if no Terms and Conditions on a website or account sign-up indicate Big Data is scraping information, who says a corporation or organization isn’t watching anyways?

Fix: Transparency
It’s important for businesses to be completely transparent about their use of Big Data and emerging big data solutions like Apache Hadoop,
Apache Spark and other surrounding tools, and make it clear when and where they will be collecting information. While asking for the consent of the user can be met with rejection, denying you potentially valuable information, the transparency and respect for others’ privacy builds both trust and respect between businesses and users. With so many businesses taking advantage of Big Data in morally dubious ways, being a safe place for people to gather will make you the preferred choice among the competition.

2. Being Dubious to Customers
A Terms and Conditions, detailing when data will be gathered, how much will be gathered, and in what ways it will be used, is seen as the
catch-all solution to Big Data ethics. However, one must ask how truly effective this “warning” is if users are not looking at it. Many never read the Terms and Conditions, and those who take the time to do so may be unable to understand the language. Several businesses take advantage of this by purposefully crafting a disclaimer designed to be overlooked or misunderstood by customers, allowing them to take data without every really earning their consent.

Fix: Break It Down
By creating a Terms and Conditions that is clear, concise, and made to be readily understood, you will erase the dubiousness of the terms and show your consumers you really care. Ethics in general can be narrowed down to a single main ingredient:
respect. By having respect for your users and their consent, you will build trust. This trust will make you of higher value among the competition.

3. Spilling Information
Quite possibly the greatest danger of Big Data is who has access to it. While the consumer may not care if your business knows their shopping habits, their average yearly income, and their personal history, should this information be
leaked to the public where their family, friends, and acquaintances can access it, it can become a personal catastrophe. You may not mean to spill this information, but should a breach in security or an accidental error from cloud computing come about, the damage is still done.

Fix: Tighter Regulations
While creating
tighter regulations may seem like the obvious answer, this process is very complex. The best way to avoid an information spill is to make it each employee’s job to protect it. This means stricter practices when dealing with the data, more disclaimers when gathering the data so that consumers realize the risk, and even avoiding more sensitive and private information that would cause significant damage in an accidental spill. This may cost you data, but the added trust will draw more consumers, some of whom will be willing to share their information, essentially earning you more in the long-run.

Big Data has led to better consumer experiences, more honed services, and profits the world around. However, for all the advantages this tool offers, there are many risks. By keeping a close eye on how Big Data is used, and even making a few sacrifices to ensure respect and privacy is exercised, you can add credibility and, inherently, more accurate data to the equation for your business.

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Bob Gourley writes on enterprise IT. He is a founder and partner at Cognitio Corp and publsher of CTOvision.com