The Information Commissioner’s Office has exposed the good, the bad and the ugly of big data in new guidance on the phenomenon which has taken the industry by storm.
IBM and Nectar loyalty scheme owner Aimia have been held up as ethical exemplars. Aimia has developed an ethical big data model called TACT, which stands for Transparency, Added value, Control and Trust.
“Their research showed high levels of concern among consumers about privacy and a desire for control over their personal data, and, contrary to a commonly expressed view, this was shared by consumers aged 19-29,” the report stated.
IBM was lauded for its ethical big data analytics framework.
However, at the other end of the scale, the ICO referred to information law academic Paul Ohm’s comments that Google’s Flu Trends project “breached a wall of trust” by using search data to find correlations between search terms and recorded cases of flu.
The watchdog also slated retailer Target, which found a correlation between women’s due dates and purchases, enabling them to effectively predict pregnancies and send relevant offers.
The report added that companies will be motivated to change the way they collect and record customer-based business intelligence by the risk of bad PR alone.
“It would harm a company’s reputation if it were the subject of a media story about the misuse of personal data, while consumers can also publicise their views to the world instantly,” the report stated.
“This is an important consideration in a competitive world. There may well be a competitive advantage in being seen as a responsible and trustworthy custodian of customer data.”
The ICO was at pains to stress that existing data protection laws must be adhered to when using big data, including making it easy for customers to move their data to other firms, not holding the data for longer than necessary and only to use the data for the original purpose it was collected for.
“This is particularly important if the organisation is planning to use the data for a purpose that is not apparent to the individual because it is not obviously connected with their use of a service. For example, if a social media company were selling on the wealth of personal data of its users to another company for other purposes,” the ICO said.
However, ICO head of policy delivery Steve Wood was also keen to point out that the guidance was not a limitation on what can be achieved with big data.
He said: “What we’re saying in this report is that many of the challenges of compliance can be overcome by being open about what you’re doing. Organisations need to think of innovative ways to tell customers what they want to do and what they’re hoping to achieve.”
For a full copy of the report visit the ICO website >
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