Privacy and Big Data- The Big Debate…

After the Snowden debacle, the image of big data analytics has been marred by a stain; that of theft of privacy, a basic human right. Snowden disclosed a large number of top secret NSA documents to several media outlets. The leaked documents revealed operational details of a global surveillance apparatus run by the NSA and other members of the Five Eyes alliance, along with numerous commercial and international partners.

The disclosures have fuelled debates over mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance between national security and information privacy. Two court rulings since the initial leaks have split on the constitutionality of the NSA’s program to collect metadata on nearly every telephone call made in or to the United States.



While the premise of collecting data for various purposes is sound, it does put a question mark on the privacy point of view. There are many who would laud Edward Snowden, a hero for unmasking the documents that he did. It does bring to light the fact that whatever we do is being monitored.

This is very true for big data analytics as well. Data analytics is a boon for marketers. A way to capitalise by gaining predictive power. Retailers agree that data analytics helps in understanding the customer.

The revelation of PRISM, allowing for a court-approved, front-door access to Americans’ Google and Yahoo accounts is a case in point. The internet of things too is a concept, indicative of the fact that data is being captured and used.

As if in answer to the many accusations of breach of privacy, The White House launched the Big Data Privacy Review recently. As part of the effort, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) are conducting an in-depth study that explores the technological dimensions of the intersection of big data and privacy, according to president Obama’s counselor John Podesta, who is leading the review.

PCAST’s study on big data and privacy involves discussions with think tanks, academic institutions, and other organizations, and the group is working with the industry to identify technologies of interest. Results from the study will be used to create a comprehensive report that encompasses future technological trends and key questions surrounding the collection, availability, and use of big data.

All of this is very well and good. But what about the Big Data movement that is taking place all over the world? Do we have a say in how our ramblings online are interpreted? We are essentially becoming a virtual, connected world.

At Intelligence Node, we believe that data analytics is the future. Is data analytics a violation of our rights or is it just the next step to a virtual reality? The debate rages on…