As retailers, advertisers, banks and insurance companies (to name but a few industries) employ increasingly sophisticated practices for data mining and analysis to tailor products, services and pricing models there is an increasing challenge about privacy in the world of big data, social media and sharing information in public domains.
Michael Kassner captures this challenge well in this article, and although it would seem there is no definitive answer it highlights the risks for industries like insurance where basing decisions solely on big data analysis could in fact wrongly ostracize customers; opening themselves up to dispute, possible legal proceeding and negative publicity as a result.
Organisations live in a time when they benefit from an almost le se fer attitude, from the general public, with regard to publishing private or personal information in public domains. A time where signing T&Cs regarding data privacy is often considered nothing more than a common "mouse click" in a process to access a product or service rather than a binding agreement defining the terms of which their data can be used.
It is these same organisations that now, in light of how sophisticated their data analysis practices are becoming, face the challenge of balancing how to use this data with maintaining the general public's willingness to make such data freely available.
Going too far down the road of personalising products, services and pricing could very easily result in increased fear that such data being available can negatively impact an individual - ultimately dissuading them from sharing such data in the future. The phenomenon of Big data suddenly loses steam when data is not available or starts to come at a cost to the organisation.
Therefore, although I am sure most (if not all) organisations are careful to act within the appropriate data privacy legislation regarding how they access and use data available - they need to tread carefully to ensure that the way in which this impacts the end consumer does not encourage them to be more reserved on sharing such information in the future.
Big data capture and analysis affecting privacy looms large in the insurance industry. Barnard Marr writing for Dataconomy states, "Big data in insurance will mean insurers combining the data already available to them which they have been using for decades — such as the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) — with emerging streams of data such as telematics and social media, to build up a more accurate picture of who we are, and how safe a bet they are placing by offering us insurance." Marr adds, "The obvious danger here is that it can lead to ridiculous situations — such as when a woman unable to work due to depression had her insurance payouts stopped when her insurers found a picture of her on Facebook, smiling."