Skip to Content

Sponsored

Big Data, Bigger Responsibility

Produced in partnership withOracle

Big data is big news these days—and with good reason. The Cloud Security Alliance estimates that humans now generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.

The big data phenomenon is a direct consequence of the digitization and “datafication” of nearly every activity in personal, public, and commercial life. Consider, for instance, the growing impact of mobile phones. The global smartphone audience grew from 1 billion users in 2012 to 2 billion today, and is likely to double again, to 4 billion, by 2020, according to Benedict Evans, a partner with the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Add to that the Internet of Things (IoT), the growing network of everyday objects equipped with sensors that can record, send, and receive data over the Internet without human intervention. Gartner Inc. estimates that the IoT currently includes 4.9 billion connected “things”—a 30 percent increase from 2014; analysts predict that the number will hit 25 billion by 2020. Of course, all those phones and devices will be generating data.

Managing big data involves more than dealing with storage and retrieval challenges—it requires addressing a variety of privacy and security issues as well.

“Companies of all sizes and in virtually every industry are struggling to manage the exploding amounts of data,” says Neil Mendelson, vice president for big data and advanced analytics at Oracle. “But as both business and IT executives know all too well, managing big data involves far more than just dealing with storage and retrieval challenges—it requires addressing a variety of privacy and security issues as well.”

In a talk at the Technology Policy Institute’s 2013 Aspen Forum, Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Edith Ramirez described some big data pitfalls to be avoided. Though many organizations use big data for collecting non-personal information, there are others that use it “in ways that implicate individual privacy,” she notedadding that the type of information collected may “reflect an individual’s health concerns, browsing history, purchasing habits, social, religious and political preferences, financial data, and more.”

Ramirez described several potential pitfalls, including:

  • Ubiquitous and indiscriminate collection from a wide range of devices
  • Unexpected uses of collected data, especially without customer consent
  • Unintended data breach risks with larger consequences

As head of the governmental entity responsible for protecting U.S. consumers, Ramirez called for “big responsibility” with big data. “The larger the concentration of sensitive personal data, the more attractive a database is to criminals, both inside and outside a firm,” she said. “The risk of consumer injury increases as the volume and sensitivity of the data grows.”

Ramirez also called for stronger incentives to push companies to better safeguard sensitive information. “The FTC has urged Congress to give the agency civil penalty authority against companies that fail to maintain reasonable security,” she said. “The advent of big data only bolsters the need for this legislation.”

That has significant meaning for organizations, Mendelson explains: “If they fail to secure the life cycles of their big data environments, they may face regulatory consequences, in addition to the significant brand damage that data breaches can cause.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other
conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other

Forget dating apps: Here’s how the net’s newest matchmakers help you find love

Fed up with apps, people looking for romance are finding inspiration on Twitter, TikTok—and even email newsletters.

digital twins concept
digital twins concept

How AI could solve supply chain shortages and save Christmas

Just-in-time shipping is dead. Long live supply chains stress-tested with AI digital twins.

still from Embodied Intelligence video
still from Embodied Intelligence video

These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems

They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.

computation concept
computation concept

How AI is reinventing what computers are

Three key ways artificial intelligence is changing what it means to compute.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.