The U.S. Approach to Data Privacy is Better for Big Data

by Daniel Mandell | 03/22/2013

Big Data produced by our M2M world (and harvested from its inhabitants) has become immensely valuable in driving innovation, amplifying productivity/efficiency and encouraging growth. Such value cannot bear without compromise, and such is prevalent with globally diverse regulations of data privacy and control. In light of recent European litigation surrounding Google and the “Right to be Forgotten”, the topic has been rekindled in the United States where data privacy is moderated in a much-looser fashion. The U.S., however, is unlikely to adopt stricter measures in the next few years as to not squelch their own interests and recent Big Data investments. This hotly-contested, relaxed approach will pave the way for Big Data innovation and spotlight privacy-conscious businesses.

The U.S. currently has fairly restrictive measures in place regarding the collection and distribution of health and financial data, but few limitations elsewhere like with social data used in precision marketing. The government is unlikely to follow Europe’s path towards safeguarding its citizens for several reasons. For one, several federal agencies (including the National Institute of Health, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense, among others) announced in March 2012 a $200 million investment designed to improve tools and techniques to utilize the mounting piles of data across several scientific disciplines. The U.S. government is on the Big Data bandwagon with aspirations of emulating the various successes of leading early-adopters like Walmart, T-Mobile and Barnes & Noble. Additionally, the U.S. government is unlikely to tighten regulatory control because:

  • The current congress is incapable of passing a budget, let alone complex privacy legislation.
  • Our maturing millennial generation has shown to be savvier with privacy controls, and is generally more open with personal information. (Just look at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • The lobbyist armies of Google and Facebook continue to grow.
  • A widespread lack of comprehensive understanding revolving Big Data persists among individuals, businesses and the government itself.

The relatively relaxed nature of U.S. data privacy regulation will greatly benefit Big Data adoption and maturation. Privacy can be traded for value in the online marketing world, for instance, so that specific offers can be more relevant and useful to consumers based on their individual interests and needs. But no matter the industry, regulatory compliance will always cost businesses money, resources and time that would be otherwise best distributed to R&D, educational workshops/seminars and/or any other business functions. Setting another technical barrier in developing Big Data solutions and use cases could stifle innovation, and would certainly delay or marginalize opportunities for expansion and use. By offloading the bulk of data privacy responsibilities onto the market’s shoulders, OEMs and service providers are able to deliver robust Big Data products leveraging a variety of growing data pools to end users.

Since the U.S. government is doubtful to tighten regulatory control, data privacy can be a highly-influential differentiating factor in attracting or retaining customers to products or services – not just in the United States but from a global perspective as well. Users understand that nothing is for free, but transparency in how data is collected and used can greatly nullify concerns of exploitation and possibly attract new business. The U.S. wants Big Data to grow, and by relinquishing some control to the market they are allowing Big Data to grow on its citizens as well.

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