OPEN DATA BRINGS FREEDOM BUT TRANSPARENCY BREEDS FEAR

Privacy out the window as Big Data goes naked

There has been a big push from private enterprise as well as government in the last decade to unshackle data in all its forms and make it easily accessible. Society has been persuaded that it’s in our best interests if open data is the norm rather than the exception, because it’s good for growth, oversight and preventing corruption and exploitation.

But there’s a dark side to naked data. Some things just need privacy to develop and grow. Investors have always felt it necessary to keep things confidential when projects are at an early stage. People want to have secrets. It’s just human nature.

When the printing press was invented, the aristocracy and intelligentsia of the time opposed mass publication, fearing it would erode their power. But innovation has been driven for hundreds of years by the sharing of ideas and the publishing of discoveries.

Open data evangelists are promising freedom. Freedom from elitists, freedom from domination and discrimination, freedom of choice. Transparency rules, they say. Transparency leads to the democratization of information, and puts power into the hands of ordinary individuals.

What’s needed for naked data to succeed is privacy of personal data, and trusted verification of social and market data; a double-whammy that prevents fraud and identity theft and also creates granular data for market efficiencies. Can our Big Data custodians provide it?

Fear lurks in the back of everyone’s mind. What if the data exposes me? I might lose the leverage I’ve worked so hard to acquire. Can I be protected, as well as being free?

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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