We've been hearing the same thing for years: Big Data will change things in a big way once it gets up and running. Widely revered as one of the biggest asset of the 21st century, Big Data is capable of creating tens of thousands of jobs and billions in revenue for the economy, and while we already have the technology and massive warehouses full to the brim of useful bit of big data, those revolutionary changes we keep hearing about will never have the opportunity to take shape if people can't be reassured that Big Data won't be misused.
Since there are plans underway to use Big Data to fulfill roles with heavy responsibility, such as determining which university a student might attend or various levels of city planning, there is an obvious concern about the security surrounding Big Data.
According to the newly released The Big Data Dilemma report, which is based on evidence from technologists, open data enthusiasts, medical research organizations, and privacy campaigners, Big Data will generate £200 billion for the U.K. economy over the next five years. But that statistic takes for granted the fact that corporations using big data technology will not use it to exploit the privacy of their customers.
In order to address growing concerns of legal and ethical challenges associated with privacy, anonymization, security, and public benefit, the Council of Data Ethics will be established within the Alan Turing Institute, the U.K.'s national institute for data science.
"There is often well-founded distrust about this and about privacy which must be resolved by industry and Government," said Nicola Blackwood, MP, chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, which published the report. "A 'Council of Data Ethics' should be created to explicitly address these consent and trust issues head on. And the government must signal that it is serious about protecting people's privacy by making the identifying of individuals by de-anonymising data a criminal offense," she added.
With the increase in the number of "smart products" which utilize Internet of Things technology, big data sets can now be collected on anything and everything. Although the potential is certainly there, the report states that the current amount of data being collected is nowhere near as much as it could be. The report suggests that companies on average only analyze up to 12 percent of the data that is available to them. Even while utilizing this current amount of data, the report goes on to state that "at this rate, [big data] could create 58,000 new jobs over 5 years and contribute £216bn to the UK economy," which would prove especially effective in boosting the public sector.
"It's admirable that the Committee called out the government for dragging its feet waiting for the new EU Data Protection Regulation. Now the government must take the Regulation and make it true and real to protect our data," says Matthew Rice, advocacy officer at Privacy International.
"The recommendations in the report provide some practical, small steps that the government should take to better prepare not only for future regulation but for the future understanding of the issue of personal data protection," he adds.
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