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Regulating the New World of Big Data Analytics

Updated: Mar 25

Big Picture


Big data analytics is an emerging field of data studies being used to inform corporate or business models, as well as scientific technologies like cancer research. It can drive elections and influence individual decisions. Big data analysis involves extracting huge and diverse amounts of information and analyzing it using advanced programming languages and techniques beyond the realm of traditional data analysis. A major issue in the usage of big data is privacy.  One of the main concerns is over the use of personal data obtained through big data analysis to find or spread an individual’s private information.


Social media corporations like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have, in recent years, fallen into controversy because they tracked users' consumer habits and interests to create more individualized blogs and pages. For example, personalized advertising and marketing based on a user’s online behavior have become fundamental aspects of social networking platforms. Many individuals who use websites and applications such as these have grown fearful of the extent to which their private information is interpreted and shared across different platforms and are calling for government regulation on corporations that utilize big data analytics.          


Operative Definitions


  1. Big Data Analytics: According to IBM, big data analytics is the use of advanced analytic techniques against very large, diverse data sets that include structured, semi-structured and unstructured data, from different sources, and in different sizes from terabytes to zettabytes.

  2. Electronic Communications Privacy Act (18 U.S.C. § 2701-2704, 2707): Written in 1986 and most recently amended in 2008, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) protects wire, oral and electronic communications while those communications are created, in transit and stored on computers. The Act applies to email, telephone conversations and electronically stored data. 

  3. Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. § 41): The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) principal tool is to bring enforcement actions to stop law violations and require companies to take affirmative steps to remediate unlawful behavior. This includes, when appropriate, implementation of comprehensive privacy and security programs, biennial assessments by independent experts, monetary redress to consumers, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, deletion of illegally obtained consumer information and providing robust transparency and choice mechanisms to consumers.

  4. Zettabyte: A unit of information equal to one trillion gigabytes. 

Important Statistics and Facts


  1. The projected amount of data created, captured and consumed by 2025 is about 181 zettabytes.

  2. There are no laws in the United States that specifically regulate big data and big data analytics. Instead, regulation relies on privacy laws and policies that are used for general online purposes in the United States. Privacy laws that are specific to big data regulation and safety do not currently exist.

  3. Global venture capital investment in AI-focused startups has grown by about 25 times in the last decade to $75 billion, according to an analysis by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

  4. Annual revenue from the global big data analytics market is expected to reach $68.09 billion by 2025. 


3-Point Plan


(1) Investigate social media corporations to determine the extent to which private information is utilized. 

This should be completed to determine how much private information about users and customers is being archived and spread across different platforms. These investigations must be conducted before legislation and regulations can be implemented. Deciding factors of how the operation is conducted include what type of information determines personalized advertising, where it is obtained and how accurate it is. 

(2) Strengthen legislation that regulates the privacy of users. 

Legislation may include requiring media companies and websites to inform users of what type of information is being recorded and shared and offering privacy preferences. This information would be provided to users before the application or platform is ever used. On May 18, 2021, Congress proposed similar legislation, the Social Media Privacy Protection and Consumer Rights Act of 2021. This act would require online platform operators to inform a user, before creating an account or otherwise using the platform, that their data produced during online behavior will be collected and used by the operator and third parties. 

(3) Motivate media and social networking corporations to reduce their use of algorithms and assumed user patterns for filtering content. 

Creating legislation requiring that third-party content use a more uniform method of disseminating information (e.g., filtering content in reverse chronological order) would motivate social media corporations to limit user-based algorithms. Limiting the use of user-based algorithms would limit the spread of biased content and news based on the information obtained through big data analytics. Content would rely less on the opinions or backgrounds of users which would reduce targeted advertising and spreading of information.


Why This Initiative is Important


Big data analytics allows for massive amounts of information to be processed and synthesized for easy analysis, but when used by media corporations and websites, it poses a threat to users’ private information. Data obtained through big data analytics, such as a user’s race, gender or political alignment, can influence the type of advertising or content that they are shown. Such content filtering can sway the results of elections, encourage online and offline discourse and fundamentally alter a user’s moral and ethical beliefs.


Regulating how information is archived and utilized by social media corporations through big data analytics will allow for the privacy and security of users to be protected. As the world becomes more reliant on the growth of technology and data studies, it is important to ensure that such research and analysis do not threaten an individual’s ability to exercise free thought and use a social networking platform safely. Through government regulation and controls over privacy and security, citizens might learn to feel more secure with how their information is used on these platforms.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources


“Big Data - Statistics & Facts.” Statista, https://www.statista.com/topics/1464/big-data/#topicHeader__wrapper


Diorio, Stephen. “Bridging the Big Data Divide.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 1 Feb. 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/stephendiorio/2022/01/31/bridging-the-big-data-divide/?sh=118be7830101


“Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA).” Bureau of Justice Assistance, https://bja.ojp.gov/program/it/privacy-civil-liberties/authorities/statutes/1285


“Privacy & Data-Mining on the Internet.” Morris Manning & Martin, LLP, https://www.mmmlaw.com/media/privacy-data-mining-on-the-internet/


“S.1667 - Social Media Privacy Protection and Consumer Rights Act of 2021 - Congress.” Congress.gov, The United States Congress, https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1667 

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