Big data for big boys would be outcome of mechanical extension of inform and consent

Posted on October 24, 2013  /  0 Comments

I was reminded of that old chestnut about a flagman having to walk in front of early automobiles when I heard some participants talk at the workshop on big data, social good and privacy. Imagine imposing inform and consent rules on transaction-generated data (big data) belonging to large corporate entities such as mobile operators. They need the data on user mobility patterns to manage their networks; they need financial transaction data to manage their finances. All these things can be covered under broad inform and consent procedures that will be presented to customers as they sign up.

What will not be possible would be to permit use by third parties for traffic management, energy management, urban planning etc, since these uses could not be conceptualized at the time of signing up customers. So what is likely to be the result of mechanical extension of inform and consent rules that were developed for qualitatively different conditions of the past would be giving the big boys a monopoly on big data; and shutting out the small firms and social interest users.

So the lady who believed that European principles had to be imposed without question to big data everywhere (I did not have the heart to tell her that the Dutch got kicked out of Indonesia a long time ago) would, in addition to being misinformed about the writ of the EU, also be serving the interests of the big boys in her misguided enthusiasm for universal application of archaic principles.

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