The term “big data” is generally used for the collection and analysis of a large amount of electronic data by using special and complex algorithms. The process is to analyze the correlation between large data sets which would not make sense independently. Now, another reason for its expansion is because the cost of storing data has decreased so it has become an easier process.
The problem with big data is that there isn’t a uniform set of rules or regulations that would govern the collection of electronic information. Obviously, the owners of the data sets are usually the consumers who somehow relinquish access to their information. So, privacy and security are major concerns. It’s important to realize that even if metadata (i.e., data about the data) is removed from the information, it can also reveal the user’s identity by looking at the relationship between the pieces of information. Also, it’s important to obtain consent from the users when collecting that information.
The potential privacy concerns have been addressed by using a mechanism called “differential privacy” which is when the data collector makes a promise to the data owner that he or she won’t be affected by giving access to the particular information. It is a type of mathematical guarantee of privacy to the interested party – e.g., the consumer. This type of mechanism has been used by large technology companies and government agencies. Nonetheless, with every new technology or mechanism that has been used by the private or public sector, there have been instances of state or federal litigation. For example, the State of Alabama filed a lawsuit in district court against the United States Census Bureau regarding this new mechanism’s viability. In fact, several years ago, the Obama Administration addressed this issue to minimize the privacy risks. Yet, there are many unanswered questions that should be addressed by lawmakers. For example, what are the potential harms and risks? Is there any kind of uniform law? And if not, should there be state and federal laws focusing on big data? What level of transparency should be required? What type of technological parameters should be implemented? Should we follow other countries’ rules and regulations? In response, the federal government granted an opportunity to the public to disclose their concerns. The government released a Department of Justice 2014 Report as a result of another lawsuit wherein the president was warned about the dangers of law enforcement agency’s predictive analytics. This report was in relation to the general public’s historical data and how a defendant’s actions may impact criminal history.