The world buzz and immediate concern of the world right now is about global warming. But what will be the next “global warming?” Some say that the dangers of data could very well be the next major concern of the world. This is the very idea that Rick Smolan presents in his book, The Human Face of Big Data. While big data has the ability to solve all of the worlds’ problems, it also has the power to destroy the world. His concern aroused when he realized who governs and controls this valuable data. In some cases, we don’t even have access to our own data. An example is given in the book of a gentleman with a wireless pacemaker that continuously transmits data to his doctor. To learn more about his personal health and medical condition, he wanted to compare his behavior (alcohol consumption, exercise etc.) with the data from his pacemaker; to see what triggered it. He therefore asked the company that designed and manufactured his pacemaker if he could access 6 months worth of his pacemaker data. They informed him that this was proprietary data…he therefore could not have access to his own data. Those that can afford the data, the teams of data scientists, developers and analysts are the ones that are benefiting from our data the most. It’s another case of the have’s and have not’s. Here, in the United States, it may not seem like as big of a deal. We assume that our rights will always be protected. However, there is no regulation and oversight over the programmers that develop algorithms and software. According to Smolan, as of now, we are all contributors of data, but few of us are able to utilize the value derived from that data; big business and the government “own” America’s data. Smolan says that this situation might be better if we could have 10% of the proceeds of our data. However, to some extent this can be argued. We may not have access to the data, or proceeds that Google or Facebook gets from us, but we do have access to the services that they provide, and we can access those services for “free.” Well, rather than receiving those services for free, we exchange our data for their service. So, essentially it is a type of barter. In my opinion, that’s a pretty good value. We get an entire network that helps us learn, and connect with people from around the world. It gives us access to more information than has ever been available in the world. I can’t imagine how much I would have spent on classes and books to learn all that I have from Google. But ultimately, Smolan has a point. Big Data is wildly helpful, but it can also be wildly dangerous. There is no doubt that data is making our lives more convenient and is making us more knowledgeable about the world we live in, but what are we trading for this? Some may have more of an issue with this than I, but regardless, we are heading in the direction of this becoming more “normal” and socially acceptable. This would be okay if it weren’t so powerful, and if it’s power was held in the hands of all. If it’s going to influence all of us, affect our lives, the lives of our aging parents, and the lives of our kids, then shouldn’t we be more involved? But there is also hope. There benevolent people of power that has access to this data, and the ability to use big data for good. And, it’s not just big business that has the capability to use big data insights. As data consultants, we help everyone achieve their big data goals. Furthermore, open data is a powerful tool that citizens have to monitor the government, encouraging government transparency. So in many ways, data is giving power to the people.

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