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Big Data Analytics: Solution or Nightmare?

Big Data Analytics: Solution or Nightmare?















Big Data Is back on the agenda. It doesn’t go away. Nor will it, ever. This whole question of privacy of personal data and the use to which it is put, with people’s consent or without. We can make no apology for returning to this hot issue yet again.

In MBF Blogs over the past year or more, we have looked at issues surrounding:

data transmission
intellectual property rights and copyright
harnessing private data for advertising and related activities
who owns your social media
loyalty cards
cookies in our computers
computer malfunctions
our readiness to give data away

Big Data Is the Handy Label

Now it is all given the tag, ‘big data’, a catch-all description of how significant data is and how the real questions for our society are scarcely being addressed.

In the words of Nick Pickles, Director of Big Brother Watch in conversation with Business Technology (November 2012): ‘Do we want computers to decide what consumer information is stored and used?’

He said that if data is collected as a by-product of a business process, it can’t be right for businesses to claim exclusive ownership of the data. Loyalty cards are generally a two-way street. You give data information in exchange for discount of some sort.

But stores that extract data from credit card transactions, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and expressed preferences in return for nothing, are wrong. Pickles has a ‘simple principle’. If data has value, it should be up to organisations benefitting from it, to ask permission for use and compensate accordingly.

He said whether it be shopping habits, health records or geolocation data, ‘the consumer should be in control’. The generators of the data should decide what happens to it, not the storers. He said, ‘treating personal details like their own to be bundled up and sold on without any regard to what customers might want.’

Data Drives Performance

Nobody is saying that big data isn’t good for business, in the words of Bonnie Gardner in the same edition of Business Technology, ‘if leveraged effectively’.

She quoted a study by EMC, Big Data: Big Opportunities to Create Business Value, that business intelligence usually provides a ‘rear-view mirror’ into performance. ‘Big data analytics provides a forward-looking view.’

The report gushes about how big data is already proving a ‘fruitful source of business advantage’. If a company uses big data fully, from every source including ‘multiple sales channels, catalogues, stores, online interactions, detailed customer tracking devices then they will drive business growth.

She claimed insight generated from big data makes it ‘possible to provide a more emotionally satisfying experience for shoppers.’ Of course they factor in external data that influences sales and performance like extremes of weather, national/local events and opinion polls.

And it’s not just retailing we’re talking about profiting from big data. Manufacturing, transport/logistics and healthcare are now big advocates. Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, for example, is pioneering a new business intelligence and analytics system known as MedeAnalytics.

This analyses quality, activity levels and financial performance metrics to identify areas of concern. Now, put like that about public/taxpayers’ money, can we really object?

The jury is out all round. Join the MBF conversation on this one. Privacy at any price, no privacy at all for a greater good or somewhere in between?

Worth a look:

Big Brother Watch

EMC2 Big Data

Image: Glenn Fink, Ted Tanasse