In our recent “Demystifying Big Data” series, we have tried to do just that – chip away at some of the mystique that surround the phrase “Big Data” – a phrase that is bandied about like an elixir, a “New Oil”, or lurks in the shadows like a “creepy big brother” depending on your perspective.
We have taken a look at Big Data in action – how Big Data has been used for good in humanitarian situations and how it is being used in a marketing context.
Last month “In Google We Trust” was broadcast on Australia’s ABC’s current affairs programme, “Four Corners” and posed the question:
“Companies know more about you than your family or your best friends. How did we get to this point and should we care?”
Listening to conversations both on social media and in the flesh during and after the broadcast, people do care and many an ordinary citizen was surprised by the level of data that is being collected as they go about their day-to-day activities. This is echoed in the OAIC Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey just out.
In our data-driven age the capabilities to crunch vast amounts of data to extract value are increasing at pace and the legislators are struggling to keep up. It is important for the users of “Big Data” to adopt responsible practices in their activities, for reasons too numerous to go into here but which essentially boil down to trust.
What are responsible big data practices? The Association for Data-Driven Marketing & Advertising (ADMA) explores this question in their Best Practice Guideline: Big Data and in a marketing context considers it under the three headings of:
- Transparency; Customer-first (how will your activities be perceived by your customer?
- Helpful or unexpected and creepy?; and
- Consider your Brand, not just the law. The message is one of common-sense.
Big Data involves collecting or using large volumes of data, which may or may not include the collection of ‘personal information’. Generally non-personal or de-identified information is used for analytics – it is possible that de-identified information when brought together with other information through sophisticated matching technology could be re-identified and re-classified as personal information.
Re-identification brings the data under the ambit of the Privacy Act 1988 which governs how personal information can be collected, used and disclosed. Brand damage aside, new laws which become effective in March 2014 introduce serious consequences for the mishandling of personal information.
Putting in place procedures and systems which minimise the risk of re-identification of data would be an example of adopting responsible big data practices.