Chapter 7

Data Privacy and Ethics

The current Big Data surge has predominantly been driven by a never-ending deluge of online clicks, queries, and paths: the artifacts of online activity. Debates have been going on for years and will continue as we work out the wrinkles between “rights”—the individual’s rights to determine what personal information he or she is willing to “barter” in exchange for free services versus the service provider’s rights to determine how to continue to provide free services. It’s a basic matter of quid pro quo—a mutual agreement of exchange of value. As with any relationship, there will always be squabbles around everyone’s interpretation of said agreements.

In a personal one-on-one relationship, two parties mutually work out the details of an exchange and agreement. In the case of online (digital product/service) agreements, the individual has only one immediate binary choice: accept the terms as stated or forego the service. There’s generally no negotiation or setting conditional exchanges. Then again, this is not much different than product agreements in the past.

The fact of the matter is most people don’t comprehend the computational power and possibilities that Big Data brings. Some think it would be impossible for someone to glean deep insight into their private lives. Big Data makes it harder to keep secrets. Jeff Jonas, IBM Chief Scientist, posted in his blog “Using Transparency as a Mask”:

Unlike two decades ago, humans are now creating huge ...

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