[A guest blog from: Ramalatha Marimuthu; Professor and HOD at Kumaraguru College of Technology]
Technology as it grows poses the society a very big challenge: The explosion of big data and its usage by the society. While the technology has been the reason behind the globalization, increase in comforts, economy growth and a number of other benefits, the double edged sword can also pose a threat to values, social freedom and health, if used recklessly.
This brings us a question: Should we be worried about big data?
The governments seem to think so. Natasha Singer, in her article in the New York Times on September 14, points out that “With tech taking over in schools, worries rise”. Schools and technology companies are collecting vast amounts of data about students and employees using biometric identification systems and social media sites – with few controls on how these details are used. California passed a bill last month restricting the exploitation of student information obtained from education industry. The bill was the response to parental concerns on third parties getting access to the school records on students.
Looking at the “good” side of the sword, the data collected is a wealth of information for a counselor who needs to decide on a correction course for an erring child, for the school to observe the collective behavioral patterns to decide on a course of action like closing the cafeteria on a sparse attendance date and for parents to monitor the progress of their child.
But is it really necessary for us to collect and store the personalized information like hand and thumb impressions, contact details and behavioral pattern of unsuspecting school children? For one thing, these are potential data that can be used for nefarious purposes. Another, prospective employers may have a lot of data that may change over time but that may create a preformed opinion in the employer’s mind. By holding on to the old information, are we not forgetting that things change, people change and behaviors change? Doesn’t the big data also bring us big responsibilities to protect our future?
So how do we encourage use of technology as well as ensure privacy?
also see: Is Big Data the New God on Earth?