Data Privacy and Ethics in the Age of Big Data

Advances in data processing and artificial intelligence bring immense benefit to society across various sectors, but may also raise privacy issues that spark regulatory backlash or limit innovation.

Data ethics refers to practices designed to safeguard data and create trust with customers. All digital professionals must take a stance when handling digital information.


Consent is a crucial aspect of data privacy, serving to define what kinds of information can be collected and how it will be used. While this concept has been tailored for use with new technologies like big data, it doesn’t address all issues raised by big data.

Concerns raised by big data generally center on privacy. People worry about who accesses their data, how it’s being used and misused – leading to significant legislative changes as a result.

Laws now permit insurance companies to use medical records as predictive data to predict future illnesses, which they then use to deny coverage or increase premiums; such practices violate privacy. Similarly, many fear the effects of big data on social lives; for example it can be used to identify someone as gay or lesbian causing stigmatization and discrimination against that individual.


Transparency is a data privacy principle that calls on businesses to be open and honest with consumers about how their information is being used, including communicating what data is being collected, stored or shared; clearly communicating any necessary storage arrangements as well as avoiding confusing terms and conditions that require legal expertise to understand.

Individually, transparency is of vital importance as it allows individuals to make more informed decisions regarding what and who they share their information with. Unfortunately, as technology continues to progress it has become more challenging to distinguish a person’s digital footprint from their real identity.

As such, many are becoming wary of how their data is being utilized; indeed, a recent PWC report indicates that 36% of consumers feel less at ease sharing personal information with companies. This should provide businesses with ample incentive to implement data ethics into their policies and integrate it into their corporate culture.


Imagine that constant, nagging feeling that conversations are being overheard or habits tracked or footsteps follow you slowly down lonely streets – this is what many people experience in today’s data-filled society.

Data ethics entails systematizing, defending, and advocating concepts of right and wrong practices for data, particularly personal data. Furthermore, its purpose is to establish an ethical code of conduct pertaining to its usage.

Companies that prioritize data privacy can gain a competitive advantage by having an official policy and ensuring transparency at leadership levels. This helps establish customer trust and make more informed decisions on how best to utilize data. Understanding what the rules for using data are can help businesses create policies that safeguard customer privacy while protecting both themselves and customers alike.


Imagine feeling as though someone were watching you – overhearing conversations, tracking habits or following footsteps across lonely streets. Although these events might occur physically, these can also occur online without us even realizing.

Although big data analytics obscures direct identifiers from data sets, combining different variables (known as “jigsaw identification”) can still build an accurate portrait of an individual without their knowledge or consent and use this data for purposes such as discrimination and harassment.

Companies face unique and evolving privacy and ethics challenges that necessitate formalized data programs to protect customer privacy and ensure ethical usage of customer personal information. To do this, they should embrace data privacy at every level within their organization and make it part of every decision made – creating a culture of transparency and data ethics while being prepared to respond quickly to emerging ethical issues in real time.

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