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Big Data doomsday: 5 issues that could ruin it all

Will businesses still see the value of Big Data if regulations tighten?

By James Nunns

Business should know by now that Big Data is the way of the future; the benefits of utilising your data to create business efficiencies and new lines of revenue has been well documented.

However, it’s not all smooth sailing and it probably won’t be for a number of years, at least. Concerns continue to linger regarding regulation, privacy, security and data ownership, so CBR has compiled a list of things that could ruin Big Data for everyone.

1. Data breaches

We’ve all read about data breaches hitting companies hard, whether it’s caused by hackers such as the Ashley Madison breach or a failure to have the right procedures and updates like with Target.

Data breaches can not only reveal intimate customer details but can also reveal the inner workings of a business.

Look at what we found out about Sony and their plans, or The Hacking Team. We now know who it was dealing with, some of which might result in it facing legal troubles.

While fines are obviously a direct punishment of the breaches, the affect on the customer base is something that isn’t as easily perceived.

Consider a site like Ashley Madison, privacy is probably one of your main priorities, so would you go back to the site now? Even if it does survive the hacking, can it continue to function as a business? Chances are it will shut down.

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Dr. Chenxi Wang, VP of Cloud Security and Strategy at CipherCloud, said: "This hack may just kill Ashley Madison. The hackers are demanding the company to shut down or face public release of the very personal details of all of its 37 million customers.

"This puts AM between a rock and a hard place if it continues to operate. It’s unthinkable for any business, especially one that runs on discretion and trust, to betray its customers’ confidentiality."

2. Regulation

The regulation of data use is an on-going issue, particularly in Europe where some countries seek stronger controls over how it can be moved and who it can be accessed by.

This issue has been rumbling on for a while and companies which are providing data analytics solutions or hardware are already bemoaning the fact that it is taking so long to get sorted.

Banks already face strict regulations on data location and how it can be used, while other industries could be faced with higher costs or scrapping entirely existing data procedures and projects.

What if extremely strict rules were enforced that meant all retail stores had to store all data on-premise and couldn’t use data which identified a shopper’s buying habits?

Of course, this is unlikely but it may only take a few UK cases of data misuse to pile on the pressure on regulators to take action.


3. Data ownership

Consumers are becoming more aware of the value of their data and with this is a growing movement for individual control over their data.

Companies may argue that by agreeing to terms and conditions to use their website or product, you are agreeing to let them use your data, so you have a choice – let us use your data or go elsewhere.

Consumers want greater insight into how the data is being used and while things like Ad Choices are becoming more common, most would still be unaware of who is tracking you.

The potential problem is a backlash against companies which don’t reveal how they use your data and people using products which give you greater control over your data.

Franck Cohen, SAP President EMEA told CBR: "I think it will be very strict in terms of data privacy and also in terms of capability of knowing what is happening with your data."

"Data securities, these are the areas where we have to have a common approach."

"Companies should know who is going to use their data and for what, and I think they should be able to control that completely – 100%."


4. Privacy

This ties in with a number of these issues, consumers and businesses are wary of their privacy. I’m sure that Sony didn’t want everyone to know how they felt about Idris Elba and I bet you as a consumer don’t want a business to know your most intimate habits.

With data location an issue in Europe, many countries don’t want their data swimming through some other country’s data centre.
Thorny issues such as the mass collection of data by government security agencies have already come under scrutiny.

The UK government was recently told by the High Court that it needed to re-write its data retention laws, having deemed them unlawful. The fine line that agencies are treading with data collection may one day lead to serious regulatory action.

From a consumer point of view and the Internet of Things, a good portion of the value of having everything connected to the Internet, is that companies can use that data.

What would truly undermine the whole industry would be a mass rejection of data sharing, buying the product but then turning off all data sharing functions.

Tim Berners-Lee, said: "The discussion [in the Queen’s Speech] of increased monitoring powers is something which is a red flag … this discussion is a global one, it’s a big one, it’s something that people are very engaged with, they think it’s very important, and they’re right, because it is very important for democracy, and it’s very important for business."


5. Predictive failure

Predictive tools help businesses to foresee the results of an action without necessarily having a data scientist or two at hand.

These tools have to be accurate, if they aren’t then incorrect decisions might be made, that could result in millions of pounds lost, perhaps even business failure.

It could be a cleverly designed piece of malware that just puts the calculations out so that you go horribly wrong.

This is a piece of technology that will thrive or die on tangible business outcomes. Without accuracy it is nothing and with the Big Data skills gap still a long way from being solved, these tools have big boots to fill or the predictive world might come crumbling down.

Byron Banks, VP, Analytics and Big Data, told CBR about the risks of getting it wrong: "Lots of money lost spent on software and even worse, the business outcome could be dramatic. You could get a prediction that tells you to do something that could have incredibly bad consequences for your business."

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