George Orwell had not the chance to live in big data age. However, in his dystopian novel 1984, he could show clearly what happens when a centralized power steps into people’s lives. This Big Brother was watching people all the time and controlling people’s behavior.
When we talk about the impact of big data, social networks and so on in people’s lives, some people become afraid of being watched and losing their freedom by Big Brother. I can remember Richard Stallman saying that he does not use cell phone nor credit cards simply to preserve his freedom.
Over the last few months, my cell phone operator sent a message several times inviting people to receive cell phone bills by email in order to consume less paper and protect the environment. It asked people to enter their emails so that they can receive bills electronically. I refused to do so that because I know it does not have anything to do with the environment, but it is about joining my personal information with personal emails which is very valuable for tracing people’s activities. I did not care to be traced because I was not doing anything illegal but in the meanwhile, I did not want to be fooled and considered to be an idiot by the cell phone operator. I really care about the environment and do not support cutting more trees but in this scenario, this is not the case.
I heard somewhere that 30 percent of twitter accounts are fake and meant to watch people. It reminds me of some lines from the books of 10 or 12 years ago that still holds true. “Nothing on the internet is free. Those who deliver free services, use your data to make money”
The idea of ethics in data is a hot topic these days. The industry needs people with different skills who can deal with data governance, data usage, data rights and data contracts. According to DJ Patil: Data gives you power and you should know how you are going to use it.
Hamideh Iraj is a big data and data science researcher. She writes on a wide range of topics including Big Data, Data Science, Information Technology, Education and MOOCs.
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