Security and privacy issues thwarting big data adoption

Concerns about customer information are the biggest challenge businesses face when using big data strategies, a new study has revealed.

Based on a survey of 330 businesses in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, 37 per cent of respondents said data security and privacy is the biggest hurdle they have to overcome when implementing big data strategies. Germans are more likely to experience data security and privacy issues, with 47 per cent versus the average of 37 per cent.

These data security concerns come in spite of businesses worldwide increasingly acknowledging the fact that making good use of the mountains of internal and external data available to them could help with their profits.

Customer attitudes

The public has become more aware of what happens to the data they hand over to companies and a degree of wariness has become more prevalent in recent years, as businesses seek to leverage competitiveness through greater customer insight.

“They worry about giving up control over how their data is used and by whom and what it means for their right to privacy,” said Thierry Jacquin, senior research engineer at Xerox.

However, Monica Beltrametti, chief services research officer at Xerox, said: “If we [companies] don’t compromise on data privacy, we can’t use these new technologies.”

What is essential, she said, is for companies to position themselves in a position of trust and stick to the minimum requirements of data for the features that they support.

“The basic idea is that users can specify, at a very granular level, what they are consenting,” said Jacquin. “They can say things such as: ‘I accept that my location can be made visible to [name or type of service, organisation or actor] for [X] purpose, but only for [Y] length of time, and not for any other purpose.”

Big data regulation

Customers may soon feel less anxious about how personal data is handled, as the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is expected to become EU law. It gives data owners, who are usually the data subjects, more control over the use of their data than is provided for by the current EU Data Protection Directive.

The GDPR could make data processors much more accountable for the collection, use and storage of their personal data. This means, on the other hand, that the regulation is also at the centre of a heated debate between the US – where data privacy is not that highly regulated – and Europe, as it has the potential to influence international trade and diplomatic stakes.

Big data as decision driver

The study also revealed that the vast majority of organisations (74 per cent) expect intelligence extracted from big data to lead to greater profitability, with 56 per cent already experiencing business benefits from big data.

“Executives see the potential of data-driven intelligence taking root, but the soil is still quite rocky in spots,” said Craig Saunders, Xerox Analytics Resource Centre director.

A total of 61 per cent of organisations said decisions made during the next year are likely to be based on more data-driven intelligence than the traditional factors such as gut feeling, opinion and experience.

But 70 per cent of organisations are still encountering inaccurate data in their systems and 46 per cent believe it’s impacting negatively on their business, requiring re-caluculation or totally unusable data sets.

“Despite the challenges, the large majority of companies are moving forward with big data technology across a wide range of different uses,” said Saunders.

According to technology and market research company Forrester, big data is an array of process where algorithms, knowledge or hardware go beyond the traditional data analytics techniques to deal with large volumes and a variety of data to obtain value.

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