Big Data & Who’s Data is it anyway?

19 Oct

Big Data

I have been perusing IBM’s pitch for their Big Data Analytics Platform …

“Big data is more than simply a matter of size; it is an opportunity to find insights in new and emerging types of data and content, to make your business more agile, and to answer questions that were previously considered beyond your reach. Until now, there was no practical way to harvest this opportunity. Today, IBM’s platform for big data uses state of the art technologies including patented advanced analytics to open the door to a world of possibilities.”

This explanation, I believe to be typical of many vendors throughout the industry, and, as it is client-focused, we may deduce that this is close to the general understanding industry-wide.  Let me also summarise IBM‘s outline of some key characteristics and challenges of Big Data:

Volume.  Yes, Big Data is large and growing exponentially, but volume alone is not the challenge. Volume alone might require more space, and more time to analyse/process than traditional data. However, the real challenge/opportunity lies in the combination of volume and Variety. The breadth of data types, photo/video/audio/text/logs requires new analytical approaches if the full potential is to be exploited. In addition, Velocity, the rate at which data is generated means the picture is constantly changing, rendering insights quickly obsolete.

“Veracity: 1 in 3 business leaders don’t trust the information they use to make decisions. How can you act upon information if you don’t trust it? Establishing trust in big data presents a huge challenge as the variety and number of sources grows.”

Big data seems to promise much in terms of Business Modelling, Decision Making, Marketing, Profiling, and Customer Relations etc…  The data exists, analytic solutions like those of IBM are already here, so, now Big Data is tangible, how about the questions? It seems the challenge regarding Big Data is not a technological one, but rather creativity in enquiry and application.

The implications of Big Data stretch beyond Business to Economics, Government, Sociology, Policy etc. Many concerns are surfacing regarding rights and ownership of data, different views and data policies across different borders. Coupled with this, is the potential for misuse of data i.e. a customer/subject’s information offered/gathered for one use, it could be reused for entirely different purposes.  How can these areas be legislated?  For example, if analytical expertise solutions are out-sourced to the ‘Cloud’, then privacy guidelines will be very difficult to maintain.

Alistair Croll, in his article on Big Data and Civil Rights  provides a useful overview of these issues and more.  I am not sure I agree with all of it, but there are some good explanations and leads for anyone interested in the ethical implications of Big Data.


One Response to “Big Data & Who’s Data is it anyway?”


  1. ‘Big Data’ – A more simplistic view « So Opinionated … - October 22, 2012

    […] business issues such as accuracy, duplication, structure, storage and accessibility. As timh88 and have touched on, advances in technology and changes in our business environments are key factors in […]

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