Big Data

In the past, I have written blogs both about security around computer systems and also on the future of integrated computer system on a global scale in the form of IoT (Internet Of Things). I start this blog by mentioning them as I want to go over a subject that is related to both, Big Data.

To begin with we need to go over what I mean by Big Data. Big Data as a concept is basically that everything there is about you as a human, what food do you prefer, what is your NI number, what is on your medical records, what do you do for a living and where do you live is recorded somewhere by someone or multiple groups. Then because this is recorded and kept, and because the world is ever more connected, this data can be shared and made available to multiple different people or groups.

Technically the latter isn’t meant to happen without your permission, but anyone who has had random telemarketers calls them on a new mobile phone, we, unfortunately, know that this concept of permission is more nebulous legally speaking than we would like it to be.

It can, of course, get even worse, with Edward Snowden confirming some of the worst fears of those who look at technology with a suspicious eye. When it comes to technologies that do things like track your position, take the odd bit of health data or possibly more, then the data is likely being kept in some form or another by your government.

The argument from the Government, at least from ours and the USA, is that in this turbulent world of warfare and terrorism that we can’t be sure who or where our enemies are, so data streams need to be monitored and recorded so that we can catch them in a planning stage rather than after an act of terrorism has occurred.

From a personal point of view, I can see the argument for this, and I would be willing to accept it as well. However, it also makes it easier for a police state to be created, and while the argument can again be made that if you don’t do anything wrong you don’t have anything to fear, that doesn’t alleviate my personal reservations given the behaviour of China in Hong Kong last year and the fact that what is considered right or wrong can change very quickly depending on who is in charge of the government at the time.

So far I’m not selling the concept of Big Data very well, but there is a reason that I brought up Security and also IOT at the start of this blog. If you’re worried about your data and information being acquired and utilised by the government or potentially advertising companies, then you there are several things you can do. Tailor your online habits so that what you share and reveal about yourself on social media is non-specific, turn off things like location services on your phone so that you can’t be actively tracked, and finally in more extreme cases utilise a VPN service while online to limit what information can be phished from your PC and Internet connection.

If however, the worries are somewhat distant, which is fair due to the sheer weight of data that ends up being recorded creating a largely protective white noise when it comes to anyone specific persons information, then there are advantages to Big Data existing and being accessible for multiple sources and technologies.

The most basic example would be locations services on your phones, this allows you to use applications like Google Maps to know where you are, what traffic is like for you on a route to your location and what sort of time you can expect it to take to get to said location.

A slightly more complex iteration and use of Big Data is the shopping recommendations you get on online shops like In this case, it can look at what you’ve been browsing across shops, recommend where it’s cheapest or even should you utilise it for grocery shopping, it will be able to roughly track and recommend when you need to get more of a refreshing grocery item.

Finally, Big Data is what allows IoT to work on a global scale, as it takes on data sets and deliberately transfers it between applications and servers to allow for easy management of multiple people or systems. An easy example of this would be that through IoT applications, a farmer can utilise self-driving tractors to harvest and manage multiple fields all at once from his tablet device, increasing productivity and decreasing employment costs.

In the end, I think that the potential drawbacks of Big Data within our society, are a price worth paying to allow us to move forward technologically and as a society as a whole. I can understand why people are worried about the potential problems, but in general, I find it unlikely that we will be in a position that said drawbacks are likely to become our reality.


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Callum Doyle 


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