Are You Getting Orwellian With Your Big Data?
Big data and its inevitable uses have been discussed in books, movies, TV shows, and more for almost a century before it became a practical reality. But perhaps the most famous is George Orwell’s 1984. That year (indeed that decade) came and went, and almost 20 more years passed before we actually had to worry about these issues.
The issue here is governance. Ever since Edward Snowden broke the PRISM story, and various world governments have tried to find a middle-ground between using big data and allowing people to abuse big data, the question has lingered in the air: where is the line between deriving useful insights from big data and outright abusing big data?
Too much governance leads to a 1984 scenario. Too little, and we end up in Lord of the Flies. Is there a happy middle ground?
It’s 1984 and Big Brother is Watching
There’s a line between “keeping your finger on the pulse” and “keeping an eye on the masses”.
In the Big Brother workplace, big data is used to find out every detail of a customer, even information that has no bearing whatsoever on our need to reach them with advertising or great content. Data is collected arbitrarily and used injudiciously. Personal privacy is a non-issue as no more than the legally required security measures are enforced.
Personally identifiable information is shared willy nilly with any contractor or third-party vendor that happens to stroll through the door, and employees are allowed to pilfer to their heart’s content to find those gems that will land greater sales numbers, even if it completely creeps their customers out that they know all this stuff about them.
Not to mention any companies by name, but [Target] nailed Big Brother when they figured out that customers who buy cotton balls, vitamins, and unscented lotion and soap together are likely to be expecting the delivery of a child. If your customers start hinting around that you’ve got TMI, you may be swaying that way.
It’s Lord of the Flies, and Nobody is Watching
Has your team lost direction when it comes to big data? You might be heading for anarchy.
In another novel forced on innocent high school students for no reason except that English teachers are legally mandated to assign something dreadful to read, Lord of the Flies is about a group of young boys stranded on an island who fall into utter anarchy. There are no rules or guidelines and the boys become undisciplined and ruthless.
This is what happens when there isn’t enough governance on how big data should be used. The data is inevitably made useless.
Finding a Happy Middle-Ground (They Don’t Write Novels About This)
Since great stories are boring, we’ll have to wing this. Companies need a good policy of data governance that keeps consumer data safe and secure and makes sure that data analysis doesn’t slip into the realm of completely creeping out the customers. In this workplace, a team of data scientists finds new and innovative ways to layer the data for insightful information. Others outside of IT also contribute with ideas and voice their concerns. Contractors are selected carefully, and employees with access to the data are hired judiciously and monitored reasonably.
Where does this happy middle ground begin? It starts with a good data integration solution, and culminates in an effort like Hadoop where data can be queried and analyzed to generate useful stuff, both for marketing and for operational intelligence. Learn from Mr. Orwell and establish smart data governance policies at your organization. You can do it, and Syncsort can help.