Privacy Regulations Can Shock Data Miners, Yet Big Data Demands a New Privacy Compact
Big Data concerns the extraction of knowledge and insights from the vast underground rivers of unstructured data that course unseen through cyberspace. It represents one of the biggest challenges to privacy and data protection society has yet seen. Never before has so much personal information been available so freely to so many.
Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is the lifeblood of most digital enterprises today. Many social media business models are fueled by a generally one-sided bargain for PII, and the fairness of this value exchange is currently a hot topic. Data analytics and data mining are able to pull PII almost out of thin air. Collectively, digital businesses may have gone too far in their enthusiasm for Big Data, sacrificing the trust of their users for short-term commercial gain.
Big Data promises vast benefits for a great many stakeholders but the benefits are jeopardized by the excesses of a few. Some cavalier online businesses are propelled by a naive assumption that data in the “public domain” is up for grabs;; they err on the side of abandon. Many think the law has not kept pace with technology, but technologists often underestimate the strength of conventional data protection laws and regulations. The extraction of PII from raw data may be interpreted as a collection and as such is subject to longstanding data protection statutes. On the other hand, orthodox privacy policies and freeze-frame user agreements do not cater for the way PII can be conjured tomorrow from raw data collected today. It is unfortunate that privacy compliance efforts so often give the impression of being preoccupied with unwieldy policy documents and simplistic compulsory notices about cookies.
Thus, the fit between Big Data and data privacy standards is complex and sometimes surprising. While existing laws are not to be underestimated, Constellation calls for a fresh compact with users that engages them in the far-reaching upside of transforming data to decisions. We call on Big Data businesses to exercise restraint in using powerful analytic tools, to be transparent about their business models, to offer consumers fair value for their data and to innovate in privacy as well as data mining.
We call the compact Big Privacy.
This report aims to enhance decision makers’ appreciation of the regulatory and social impacts of data analytics and Big Data by exposing some surprising strengths of data privacy law as well as shortcomings in standard privacy principles. We set out a fresh compact that innovative digital companies can strike with their communities to respect the incredible and privileged insights that Big Data provides.