Value of Data

Value of Data

Driven by the reduced costs of storing and transferring information combined with the increased capacity to instantly analyze massive troves of data, the volume of data being collected and processed across the globe doubles every 18 months.  Technologists, data scientists, researchers, governments and companies believe that analyzing this data will yield new insights across a range of fields, from better health care to a cleaner environment.  Last year, the Obama Administration announced a new, multi-agency “Big Data Research and Development Initiative” in order to encourage developments in the analysis and collection of complex data.

Privacy advocates are concerned that these very same advances could lead to a world where data is used to discriminate against individuals, to profile them, to limit their opportunities and narrow their freedoms.  These concerns are important, but it is also essential to recognize the valuable social benefits that can be derived from data.  By focusing exclusively on privacy risks, regulators and policymakers may fail to account for the value of data uses.

Due to these concerns, big data considerations should focus on maximizing its benefits while limiting privacy concerns.

For an analysis of the relationship between data use and privacy, see Omer Tene and Jules Polonetsky’s articles, “Privacy in the Age of Big Data: A Time for Big Decisions” and, more recently, “Judged by the Tin Man: Individual Rights in the Age of Big Data.”

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Future of Privacy Forum “Value of Data Project”

The Value of Data Project will seek to establish guidelines for making value choices when balancing the costs and benefits of using big data. Current decision-making practices start from the position that big data can pose risks to privacy, often without careful consideration of the important benefits that can result.  With support from Intel and Vodafone, FPF plans to undertake a new initiative to help establish a coherent framework that models big data’s risks against its rewards.

First, drawing on the experience of its members, FPF will present a number of use studies that illustrate the beneficial uses of big data and the practical means for protecting privacy.  These concrete use cases will highlight the benefits and societal value of big data across a range of fields.

The project will attempt to provide a framework that looks at big data from a holistic perspective, rather than focusing primarily on the risks involved.  Expanding on work by regulators and consultants setting up procedures for privacy impact assessments, the project will develop a privacy impact assessment toolbox to help decision-makers decide whether or not to go ahead with a project.

FPF will support the project with a series of academic papers and events designed to highlight the benefits of big data and the need to analyze properly its risks and rewards.  On September 10th, 2013, FPF teamed with the Stanford Center for Internet and Society to present a workshop entitled “Big Data and Privacy: Making Ends Meet.”  Papers submitted for this workshop are available here, and a selection were published in the Stanford Law Review Online.

> BLOG POSTS:

Big Data Research – 5/04/12

Big Data and Privacy: Same Old Concerns or Something New? – 2/15/13

Increasing Calls for Big Data Dialog – 3/25/13

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