Big data - How much is too much?

As intrusive as it may sound, gathering personal data by computers on us and then analysing it for patterns, a process often referred to as Big Data, isn’t all bad but where should we draw the line?

In my letter to local newspapers across London this week I wanted to highlight the need for a debate on this topic.

There are clear benefits to computers knowing a lot about us. Computers can identify patterns which humans may miss, whether it is in health, crime or even policy implementation but it can also be used to track us, pester us for money, and be used by criminals to steal our identity.

This is why I have raised the question in my letter this week, a copy of which you can see below….It is only a matter of time before billboards will show adverts targeted at us as we walk by.

 

It is only a matter of time before billboards will show adverts targeted at us as we walk by.

Sir,

Isn’t it time there was more of an open debate about so-called big data and how it is used?

With constant improvements in computer and communications technologies, companies are now able to collect and process large amounts of data about us all.

It allows them to sell advertising to us at the exact moment we are most likely to buy it. It is only a matter of time before billboards will show adverts targeted at us, or a coupon pops up on our phone encouraging us to buy something from a local store as we walk by.

A news article recently warned people to be careful what they posted on social media because it would be used by insurers to calculate their premiums.

The implication is that all use of big data is sinister and invades our privacy. However, there are many clearly positive uses.

Big data can spot health concerns way in advance. It can help people access credit who would otherwise struggle, by allowing a lender to assess risk – whether you have a credit rating or not.

As big data becomes more important to our economy and lives, do we not also need a big discussion about what gets stored and how it is processed? I would be very interested to hear your readers’ views.

Yours sincerely,
Syed Kamall, MEP for London

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I have been discussing a lot of technology topics recently due to the issues importance for London, such as here, the importance of fast broadband speeds. http://syedkamall.co.uk/broadband-speeds-report-london-deserves-better/

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