The 5 Ways Big Data Could Become A Horror Story

It's close to Halloween, so we look at the scarier side of data


We often discuss the use of data technologies and how they are impacting the world in a positive way. We have seen them used to help millions of people in healthcare, save thousands of lives in disaster zones, and even help to collectively protect the environment. It is a growing trend in the world and with organizations (including our own) waxing lyrical about it, we often forget that there are some very real and very serious negatives.

However, as we approach the scariest time of the year, we take a look at 5 of the more blood curdling things that Big Data has brought or may bring in the future.

Lives taken from people

Being robbed 20 years ago generally consisted of somebody either mugging you in the street or breaking into a building and stealing physical things. 10 years ago, somebody may have hacked into your bank account and cleared you out. Today, somebody can almost steal your entire life, take out loans in your name, wreck your marriage, and even make your deepest secrets public.

This is because one of the goals of data collection is to make sure that you get a rounded view of your customers, so the more data you can get about somebody, the better. If you know their address, relationship, personal preferences, salary, and job, then you have a limited knowledge compared to what your competitors know. This creates an issue in that hackers want to get this information and when they do, it can destroy peoples lives.

Think Ashley Madison, where one mistake made years ago can cost somebody their marriage, it is so much more sinister than simply stealing somebody’s money.

Robots taking over

The IoT, Machine Learning, and increasingly complex algorithms have all meant that even some of the most highly skilled jobs in the world will be done by computers. We have already seen machines write articles, diagnose patients and trade stocks, so what will be left for people?

That jobs are being automated is not necessarily the scary thing, but the lack of governance of these changes is what causes people to be really scared. Uber already has driverless taxis in Seattle, and ask any factory worker about how many robots now work on their line and it is clear that they are taking considerable numbers of jobs already. Without having policies in place to deal with the real threat of people losing their livelihoods in their millions, with millions of robots able to be controlled from a remote location thanks to developments in the IoT.

Society War

Following the spread of social media and personalized marketing, views held outside of yours are almost invisible and you are unlikely to see them as frequently. This causes you to have a skewed view of the world. Take the US Presidential election for instance, where Trump or Clinton supporters’ Twitter feeds only show discussion around how great their candidate is. The bulk of the adverts they see are also targeted at their beliefs, further entrenching their belief that nobody is talking about the other candidate positively and or your candidate negatively. When they are challenged by an opposing view, they refuse to believe it because of the confirmation bias they feel from their personalized online experiences. This is one of the key reasons why we have seen 2016 become the most bitter and vitriolic election in living history.

Losing our minds

At present, the concept of a data-driven company is that people can make decisions based on the data available to them or that the ideas they have are easily measurable by data. If I want to know the best way to do something, all I need to do is look at the data behind it, but if I am always basing every decision I make on data, it runs the risk of dulling other critical organic thoughts.

This isn’t to say that nobody would have good ideas at all in the future, but more than likely, people may well be likely to be scared to do anything unless they have data to back it up beforehand, as opposed to trying something new and using data to track its success.

Nobody to do it

This is one that we are currently experiencing, namely that although we have all the data in the world, we have a chronic lack of qualified people to utilize it properly.

The struggle here isn’t necessarily that we will be unable to conduct all the data work that we need to, but more that most companies are pushing for it and if they have unqualified people trying to use data, it is likely to create as many problems as it does solutions, potentially turning them off the idea of data use in the future. Data has a bright future, but we need to make sure we have people to do in order to make that happen. At the moment, this is something we are struggling in.

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