Big Data – Big Brother or Big Society?
While many people are still trying hard to define what is behind the hype theme „Big Data“ – the most common approach is to use the 4 “V”’s: volume, velocity, variety and value - for some it seems clear that the name is derived from Big Brother. And yes - there are frightening data-points that support this. Mixing different data sources including social media data and other location and communication data can offer deep insight into our personal behaviour which can not only be used to provide us with a custom made reality, e.g. filtering and enriching the web content we consume based on our personal preferences, but also has the potential to monitor and regulate every personal area of your life. E.g. in the hands of a fascist government this tools and techniques provide the perfect setting for George Orwell’s 1984 for its people. Some say this is what is already happening and reading the newspaper these days’ fells like we are already there: “REPORT: Tech Giants Share Shocking Amount Of User Data With The Government” .
But is it the technology that is bad or is it the people doing bad things with technology? Especially when a technology has the potential to be both, very useful or harmful, it is necessary to fully understand the possibilities to have the chance to steer the applications and impact on a society or person. Is it useful to know that 400m ahead there is a traffic jam and you can take the last exit before you get stuck? It definitely is and many people intentionally share their current position by their smartphone to be able to consume this kind of service. Sharing data and tapping into the wisdom of the crowd combined with state of the art technologies can have impressive results and potential benefits for a society or single person. Take this demo of Photosynth – a Microsoft Product – as an example.
Where will these new technologies lead us – to an Orwellian Big Brother State or a libertarian Big Society which is fair and democratic by being able to take into account every single personal claim and data history? As always – it’s up to you how to handle the future. Doing nothing is a decision, too. More rational you could embrace new techniques and tools, try to use them in a way your personal or companies needs are fulfilled. Companies like Microsoft who help deploy this new Big Data techniques into the hands of the masses (“BI for the masses”) help provide the basis for a self-regulated society or as Kant said: “Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. “