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Have EU Regulators Got it Totally Wrong With Big Data?

Around the world, governments are grappling with what to do about big data. How should it be regulated? What should the security requirements be? What, exactly, is big data anyway? Nations across Europe have taken a somewhat different stance on the issue. The European Union is working toward synchronization of regulations across all of the nations, which was the purpose behind the recent EU Data Protection Regulation.

But the EU may have some serious misunderstandings about what the use and value of big data actually is. These misunderstandings could lead to poorly planned and executed regulations as Europe (and potentially other legislators around the world) try to develop solid plans for protecting consumer privacy and assuring a fair and competitive business market. Here are the areas where EU officials likely got it wrong.

EU Regulators See Big Data as Anti-Competitive

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EU regulators fail to understand that big data can’t ensure a business’ success. Only smart analytics and wise use of analytical insights can help a company gain a competitive edge.

EU legislators are convinced that since big companies have big data, that this gives them an unfair advantage over their competitors. This misunderstanding is erroneous in several ways. First, there are affordable ways for most any size business to take advantage of big data and data analysis. Second, having big data doesn’t assure any type of success — unless companies are wise and diligent with their big data and analytics, big data is useless for yielding any kind of competitive advantage.

Having an abundance of data cannot assure a business’ dominance in the marketplace; having the skills to glean insights and value from big data does, and any size business can achieve this. With the affordable data integration solutions available, it doesn’t take a big budget to remain competitive with big data initiatives.

EU Regulators See Big Data as Anti-Consumer

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Big data allows business to provide a superior customer experience, which benefits consumers as much as it does the business.

European legislators are also concerned that as businesses leverage big data, they will grow to be so big that they gradually disregard the privacy of consumers and become even more invasive. This outlook completely ignores the value that big data offers to consumers. Can you imagine a world in which Amazon wasn’t able to recommend cartridges to go with your new printer, or where Facebook couldn’t recommend pages to like and friends to follow based on your preferences and friends? These services are far more than a “competitive advantage” for these companies, they have become a valuable and appreciated service to their customers.

Larger companies also fall under more scrutiny, both from the public and from legislators. Consider the headlines made when super giants like Google and Microsoft change their privacy policies. Holding sensitive consumer data puts these businesses under even more pressure to behave responsibly, making it unlikely they would risk abusing their hard-earned and always-scrutinized reputations by infuriating the public with bad privacy policies.

Is drafting solid regulations to govern the use, transfer, sale, and storage of big data going to be easy? Certainly not. There are serious privacy concerns, and those should be addressed in any legislation that is passed. But there are also inherent values in big data that can benefit companies of all sizes, as well as the public that they serve. Misunderstanding the power and potential of big data holds for everyone in society is a bit like tossing the baby out with the bathwater.

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