Big Data Calls for Big Privacy – Not Big Promises



A group of academics, business professionals and public policy makers have published a series of provocative discussion papers arguing that the traditional Fair Information Practice Principles – the basis of all privacy laws around the world – need to be dramatically revised in the era of Big Data, Cloud Computing and the Internet of Things. These papers, co-authored by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Fred Cate, and Peter Cullen, argue that the principles of informed consent, purpose specification, and use limitation should be downplayed in favour of greater emphasis on accountability by data users – governments and corporations.

While we do not take issue with the need for greater accountability on the part of data users (we strongly favour such an approach), we see significant risks in removing the individual from exercising his or her privacy rights and giving a free hand to data users to determine the acceptability of secondary uses. We recognize the great value and numerous benefits arising from Big Data analytics. However, they could also lead to a world of ubiquitous surveillance, power imbalances and unintended consequences, diminished accountability, and the taking of a paternalistic approach to privacy and data protection.

Privacy by Design’s 7 Foundational Principles offer a doubly-enabling, positive-sum framework that addresses these concerns. There are strong solutions, such as the use of de-identification tools, which are already being deployed in Big Data analytics contexts, deserving of greater consideration. By encouraging data users to proactively and systematically respect individual’s privacy rights, the harm of having personal identities linked with the data is removed while enabling extensive data analytics to be performed.

We believe these issues merit a broader public discussion. Join us for a live webinar on Friday, January 24 at 9:00 a.m. EST with leading experts as they explore the evolution of privacy principles for the 21st century.