21 thoughts on “With Big Data Comes Big Responsibility”

  1. It sound like at some point the idea about open data might be opposed by ‘some’ I mean government. Imagine a rogue government develop a soft ware that hacks, scan and analyze your security system and act according?

  2. One very fine article sir. Have you ever considered that one of the underlying problems in the way we use data is that we have no real idea of who we actually are as human beings. I suggest you read a short little book by the philosopher Alan Watts called the Wisdom of Insecurity.

  3. “The question is will the gatekeepers of the future rise to the challenge?” Only if the users themselves find the wherewithal to rise to the challenge. For they guard one side of the gate and access by “big data”.

  4. I have written about the dangers of the data being gathered and stored and the potential implications of the ASSUMPTIONS that can be made based upon it since at least 2008. Few are taking this nearly as seriously as they should.

    Beyond your suggestion that an insurance company could raise your rates or refuse to insure you because cameras indicate you drove faster than the posted limit, imagine the uproar if cash-strapped government decides to start sending retroactive speeding tickets with fines of however much they choose? There is nothing to stop that from happening now as far as I know.

    All this data will create a society that pushes people into a black market against their will. It can be used to prevent you from getting a job, renting a home, obtaining health care so you will have no choice but to operate outside the system. Unfortunately, “we the people” no longer have any say in anything as money has corrupted everything. The only exception is possibly very locally – which is why the U.S. was designed as it was – to prevent what is happening right now.

    Some will “opt-out” and leave technology behind to live in very remote rural areas where they can still ALMOST have privacy. I miss the days when you could use your backyard swimming pool or jacuzzi and not have to worry about your photo being plastered online for anyone to see. Today, you can never know if there is a drone, or someone with a camera phone or a satellite looking down snapping your photo. Perhaps that was always a risk – but less so when images could not be uploaded and shared where anyone can find them.

    Opting out will eventually mean not being able to buy anything. It already means not traveling. Did you know Walmart is testing cashless stores? In them you can not pay with cash. One day there may be almost nowhere you can pay with cash. Those who want to opt out better be planning ahead. Some will live the simple life where the only necessities are access to clean water, locally grown food, and shelter.

  5. “And the only way I see to overcome that challenge is if companies themselves come up with a clear, coherent and transparent approach to data.”

    That is a big ask. If it does happen it will be on their terms with the foxes minding the chickens. Politicians and governments are decades behind the curve. Maybe the EU will get on top of it with extensions to their Data Protection laws but so far it hasn’t in any meaningful way. A simple law has to be passed to state that personal data belongs to the person and only that person can give permission to use it. With such a law enacted, a new technology industry would grow and prosper.

    1. It feels like slowly we are now developing a mindset to protect our personal data and in maybe next few years some new start up or the existing once will discover a way to protect our data and will charge us for the services. We will be happy to grow their business in order to save the most important part of our life.

  6. Thx Om, always a pleasure!

    You ask: “What are the rules around the privacy of that information? Who is making those rules?”

    I think that, as shown by Facebook multiple times, the companies will inexorably abuse this information and harm will be done. It is in our nature to abuse others until we are stopped by our environment or society.

    Unfortunately as a society we will react only after the fact, just like when we go to the doctor when we are already sick instead of going for regular preventive care.

    In the mean time new startups that can disrupt the original disruptors (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, etc.) must be supported in their free enterprises by government and us as consumers.

  7. I think that we have to become unfragile, the title of a book. big data is not going to break us anymore than did the civil war cannon that was said to control the weather. its all chaos theory from now on and upon entering the ZETTABYTE age, no one can even translate it anyway. lets agree on something we can control, like weather?

  8. I’ve been struggling with this issue for a while, because of the NSA surveillance, and the TSA. That’s where my data might go that might be the most harmful. There’s no denying the convenience of Global Entry when I travel, however, so I’ve just traded my fingerprints and retina to the TSA. Now what does it matter that I’ve traded Waze my driver data or someone else my health data.

    Caveat: I am not a job seeker and I don’t live in China. If I were, or if I did, I bet I’d have completely different opinions on this. The greatest point you make in this thoughtful piece is that we have to have a discussion.

    We have the capacity now for mutually assured destruction without an external enemy. And because you’ve been around the Valley as long as I have you know that things have really changed. The threats are much greater now.

  9. Only eleven comments? I can’t believe it.

    Om, this is such an important and under-appreciated subject. Big Data [usage and policy] is probably neck-n-neck with climate change as being the one of the biggest challenges of our time.

    The thought that I could look up “bankruptcy” (or comment somewhere using the word lol), and that could have an impact on interest rates offered to me is HUGE.

    I have become increasingly aware of how what I do online profiles me, and it really seems counterproductive to the utopian aspects of the Web. But of course, I benefit from a lot of the profiling.
    I made an audio version of this post (kind of funny me thinks):

  10. All I can say is this as a computer scientist I know AI is a world away and that keeps people feeling safe “the computers can’t think yet so what if they everything about us” well as this Essay clearly shows the computers aren’t the issue but rather what the humans are going to do with the data and they definitely can think! I personally believe it’s team we had machine laws that govern the conduct and use of all machines and then a subset of those laws centered around what is allowable programming, application and data use. This is now overdue imagine if a serial killer could program Candy Crush Saga? Or even worse imagine if terrorist got a hold of Facebook, Google and Apple access codes? How would we stop them or would we even know?

  11. I do not believe the responsibility of Big Data, Robots, 3D, etc. will ever capture common sense. It is in the spirit of the human.

  12. Great article, it really destroys any illusion of privacy we have in this age. If one day robots can think and act like humans, would they be able to feel too?

  13. Reblogged this on AB's Reflections and commented:
    Of course the smart governments can have a field day with all the data being collected, and would be more reluctant than ever that one of the essential services get blocked by other states…

    1. Its fascinating how we’ve been so conditioned to immediately placing the fear of ‘big government’ at the top of the the list of horrors. I at least have SOME voice in government. I have none in Corporations and the role they’ve taken in manipulating government.

  14. Could not agree more.

    It is funny how anarchy becomes instantly acceptable by just getting online.
    To change that internet has to rebuild it self.

    Undoubtedly it has power to improve our life experience, only in anarchy it is on people to take responsibility and initiative.

    Sharing for exchange of value or common good is great, but the moment this data collection is linked to a person, this is stalking.

    Entrance to internet should be opposite to now, private first, shared by choice.

    The beautiful thing is, we can do it right now.

  15. 2 points…
    1) The claim that ‘no personally identifying information is collected’ is meaningless. Add the ultra precise predicative capabilities of big data with the very personal info (location, local search history, etc) the they DO have, and the distinction becomes meaningless.
    2) I remember 40 years ago when the big debate was about how we’d deal with all the leisure time we’d all have resulting from automation. The real result? As you note, those efficiency gains have largely gone to the 1%. And the need for 2 worker families and 24/7 work tethering is producing the opposite of a leisure ‘problem’.
    My own thought is that, just as the costs of economic ‘externalities’ need to be included into the up-front price of all products, the gains from automation need to be allocated to those displaced, up front as well.

  16. As a science fiction writer and, more generally, someone who studies how it is that major transformations happen in human society, it is interesting to think about what our concept of ‘privacy’ will look like once the Data Age has fully emerged. Based on history, it will surely not be the same as it is in America or Western Europe at the moment. Whatever it is, it will not be either the utopia or dystopia that we see right now, but a shift in focus. I suspect that the word ‘privacy’ will remain; it will just have a different meaning in the future.

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