Three Big Problems Big Data Will Create in 2014

    Big Data talk has dominated 2013 to such an extent that sometimes it’s hard to imagine we’ll have much else to say about it in 2014.

    That’s unlikely to be the case, however, as other trends — mobile data, the Internet of Things, and hybrid cloud — will launch further Big Data adoption. Hadoop, especially, will become more important as vendors explore its potential as a platform for building new solutions.

    While the potential of Big Data is still too fluid to pin down, the business challenges it will create are already coming into focus.

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    Click through for three Big Data problems organizations will face in 2014.

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    Business Challenge One: Privacy and legal concerns over Big Data become risk issues.

    Big Data experts and analysts have discussed the privacy challenges of Big Data for years now, but the general public is starting to understand its ramifications, too. During 2013, the “dark side of Big Data” became a popular headline.

    Meanwhile, enterprises are investing in Big Data with the end goal of pursuing advanced analytics. A Sand Hill survey found that nearly 62 percent identified advanced analytics as a top use for Hadoop in the next 12 to 18 months.

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    How this affects businesses

    In 2014, privacy and other legal concerns could come to a head as more people see Big Data’s real impact on their lives. The adoption of mobile devices, drones and the Internet of Things data will only add to the problem by generating geospatial, sensor data and pictures into the mix, according to an IEEE Computer Society article.

    What businesses can do

    Hold a sit-down discussion with corporate counsel about compliance with privacy laws, and determine who bears legal responsibility if data is wrong as well as who owns the data and intellectual property rights, recommends Brooke L. Daniels, who works in the Global Sourcing practice at the law firm of Pillsury in Washington, D.C.

    Don’t just discuss the existing law; find out what the legal experts are predicting, and prepare.

    Evaluate potential public relations and marketing concerns about “not creeping out customers,” as Daniels puts it.

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    Business Challenge Two: Employees who think they know better than the data.

    Big Data is accelerating the push toward data-driven decision-making, but that’s not how most management education programs train employees, contends Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business in the MIT Sloan School of Management. Instead, much of the training focuses on honing management “instincts.”

    He adds that it also goes against what most of us have been told over and over: Trust your gut.

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    How this affects businesses

    The writing is on the wall for those who base decisions on “gut” or “instinct,” writes McAfee: Studies show algorithms outperform human decision-making, whether predicting which suppliers will perform best or the outcome of Supreme Court cases.

    Becoming data-driven will require a paradigm shift for most organizations. McAfee predicts that whether or not an organization is data-driven will become a competitive differentiator that will make or break businesses.

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    Business Challenge Three: Using data for discrimination.

    This year, a research project used large, easily accessible datasets to identify nearly 50 anonymous DNA donors. The project raised not only privacy concerns, but showed just how easily Big Data sets can create another major challenge: using data for discrimination.

    This is not just a theoretical concern. Already, experts like Microsoft Researcher Kate Crawford warn that Big Data is being used for “more and more precise forms of discrimination — a form of data redlining.” Health care data and social media data are particularly vulnerable, researchers say.

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    How this affects businesses

    Discrimination is not new, but Big Data may make it harder to pinpoint. Crawford has written a paper outlining a system of due process that would provide people with more legal rights when it comes to understanding how data analytics is used to make health care or job determinations against them.

    Obviously, the law is still catching up to the technology advancements organizations are making, but that doesn’t mean business policies must also lag behind.

    When you’re formulating your Big Data strategy, take the time to also create Big Data usage policies. A data governance committee can also help safeguard data and provide oversight against its misuse.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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