Originally published in finmaps.com
The advancing technology known as “Big Data” has major potential in providing huge boosts to companies and organizations from all walks of life who choose to welcome this concept. This is while there is much talk about the pros and cons of big data. There is also a series of questions that come with big data, including how is it currently used, and where is it heading for the future. We may have not comprehended it, but the truth is that we are in the midst of a huge technological revolution unseen since the introduction of the World Wide Web and the Internet. Experts are also describing the period we are living in as the fourth industrial revolution.
All types of data are being thrown at various types of organizations, including information about their customers and even weather patterns. Astounding is probably the best way to describe the amount of data being created every day. However, we have yet to understand the implications in this regard. Of course data is useful and knowledge is always good. But is it? What if organizations begin to learn more than you want them to know about your personal life? Could the concept of big data lead to others having extensive control over your life?
Information is considered power by most business. The more data they collect about their customers, the more efficient their productions and services become in luring old and new customers into digging deep into their pockets. What does this mean? Simple. Business and large firms are creating huge databases about current and probably future customers, in addition to their buying habits. If you are using a credit card rest assured that the credit card company knows every single detail about the stores you buy from, your shopping habits and what websites you visit during online shopping.
From a business perspective, all of this vast amount of data makes their job all the easier. However, the side-effect is that the information is misused, as believed by many, to control people’s behavior, including most probably yourself. What happens then? Unfortunately, this is another case of power corrupting and absolute power becoming even more corrupt. Business enjoying such amounts of information will most definitely start using this leverage to attempt to influence the actions of their customers, like us, in methods unthinkable by us.
This is already taking place in some instances. Many companies have begun monitoring the actions of their employees 24/7. This seems spooky, to say the least. E-mails, calls, text messages on phones belonging to the company, and other communication means are all monitored. Such organizations are able to determine all types of behavioral traits through Big Data Analytics, especially information useful in performance reviews. For instance, an employee might see their passive or aggressive behavior in their communications used against them down the road. There are companies that have already instituted monitoring practices able to discover if their workers browse Facebook even for a few minutes.
When businesses enjoy such power, think of how far governments have already gone. Surveillance by the government on its citizens has and will continue to be a source of concern for the general public and rightly so. Online communications of all kinds are under severe scrutiny of government collecting data about their citizens from these platforms. This is true even if there has been no wrongdoing involved. Even what you post on social media is now targeted through various social media techniques employed by different organizations. Such practices are raising questions by people from all walks of life about what the intention of such companies actually are.
And with the eventual and fast-paced rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) will actually make this phenomenon even more gigantic, and so, even more concerning. With such a development in the very near future, literally every single object around us, the ones we use and the ones used by others and the general public–including our clothing to different appliances throughout our home–will include sensors equipped from their birth in factories. These devices will be used to send data to various databases around the world that are most probably interconnected, providing those working with databases countless possibilities. This will result in every single moment of our lives being under monitoring, maybe even if we go to the restroom. Rest assured very little parts of our lives can be perceived as “private” moments. Like it or not, somebody will know where you are at every second of the day. It is yet to be known how businesses, governments and other organizations actually plan to organize and use this amount of information. Does this mean various parties will be able to influence our lives, and little by little, place it under further control? This has yet to be determined. However, as the IoT industry develops and matures, privacy concerns will most definitely grow. And rightfully so.
There is a need for answers to some very serious questions about the challenges posed by big data that we in our vast society will be dealing with. There is no doubt in the possible benefits of big data providing for various industries, especially making breakthroughs in medicine and medical care, and even smart cities.
A balance is needed in this regard, respecting both individuals’ privacy and not hurting the potentials of big data. Yet who is to determine and define that balance? This will be a solution reached hard and through painstaking efforts. Yet considering the importance of such a solution, it will need a collective effort to serve the better interest of all.