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Big Data and Privacy - the debate evolves!

Arun Sundar, Chief Strategy Officer at Trustsphere | Oct. 28, 2016
The big data versus privacy debate is analogous to the social debate on "whether the society or the individual is more important”.

Very similar to this is the debate on privacy v/s benefits of big data. If the benefits of collecting individual data and understanding a pattern is predicting a terrorist attack then the benefit weighs higher. However if the benefits of understanding the pattern weighs towards helping a retail business predict a pregnancy of a customer based on her buying pattern changes and offer her pre-natal related offers on mail - it's undeniably a breach (this example is an oft-quoted one for the power of analytics as well as how this power 'corrupts'). However when the benefit is about predicting what a customer might like to buy next and be offered to increase his propensity to buy(like discounts) or when it can understand an employee's animosity towards his manager - the line becomes gray! Some individuals might feel it helps (that the world aligns to his need) while others might disagree and see it as an intrusion - this part of the debate will continue, and forever. Cultural and Social fabrics make it even more difficult to have a consistency (for example some of the South Asian languages do not even have a translation for the word privacy)

It's interesting to note that the society v/s individual debate is seeing a reversal of thoughts in the 21st century. The Asian cultures are gradually increasing their thrust on the individual enlightenment while the Western economies (more than cultures) are acknowledging the need for increased social and state involvements in matters supposedly classified as 'individual' or 'privately operated'.  This is what any evolution teaches us, that for most teething issues there are no 'ultimate' solutions but just 'broad' frame works or boundaries (just as the two use cases mentioned above that lingers in extremes tells us). As Big data and its advantages becomes more visible, so will the grey lines too. So does the evolution of our thinking and boundaries of 'tolerance'. Interesting times!!


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