Regulation and risk should temper big data's explosive growth

Regulation and risk should temper big data's explosive growth

Increasing EU pressure coupled with enormous breaches has some questioning if bigger data is better

With everything from garbage trucks to espresso machines eager to help monitor and store data on everything they can, it seems inevitable that more data will continue to be collected and stored indefinitely. But with great data comes great amounts of responsibility — as well as liability and regulation.

In a piece on Quartz today, Ryan Garner even argues that data has become too much of a liability, and predicts businesses will move away from storing it, instead positioning themselves to be brokers of access to real-time data that isn't stored for the long term:

Companies will have no interest in owning masses of personal data. They will just manage the flows of data between those that have data and those that need it.

That's a bold prediction, particularly given that some of today's hottest technological opportunities do require massive amounts of historical data, such as machine learning, and that physical storage costs continue to decrease.

But Garner notes a few key factors that make the ever bigger, ever better approach challenging.

  • One, EU regulation, including the recently passed General Data Protection Regulation, which puts stringent controls on how data is used and includes stiff fines for use without consent.
  • Mega-breaches continue, and storing increasingly sensitive information opens all sorts of uncertain risks when it comes to litigation.

Data has huge economic value but it is becoming businesses’ biggest liability, Garner states. As a consequence, in the future, data companies will not own data. They will just manage flows of it.

Garner raises some excellent issues, and while I think he overstates the case (Pointing to Uber as a data light company ignores how much data they actually keep and how much they plan on ingesting with self driving cars), I think it's a good reminder to technical staff to raise the dangers of storing data as well as the opportunities.

Is that data warehouse truly a digital goldmine, or just an ominous cavern?

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