Is Washington or Geneva a Bigger Threat to Big Data?

Big Data is the common name for the terabytes of information collected on each person, transaction, habit and click online.  Collection is straightforward – a mere technology choice with lots of software arms-dealers available to help you construct your data fortress.  But what about government oversight?  What role will the US Government, or the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) play in knowing and ultimately approving what you know?


US Federal Government officials are struggling to keep up with the Big Data movement – they have an inherent belief that it is both bad for individuals, and at the same time an opportunity for the federal government (see my previous posts on the Obama campaign’s use of data).  Rather than let the consumer decide what she or he wants to be known about themselves, expect regulation to try and create limits, even if it stifles valid entrepreneurial opportunity.  How far the Feds can go in controlling Big Data remains unclear, given the dual reality that the data is owned by private companies, and some if not most of it is held in servers outside the US.


A bigger threat is happening in Geneva, where open internet opponents such as Iran, Russia and China, are pressing for the ITU to take over the control of data and traffic on the internet.  The lead discussions relate to charges and back charges – think long distance fees and collect calls – that each website would have to pay to reach an end user.  The ultimate goal however is not revenue, but the ability to shut off websites and web services including Google, Facebook, Twitter and if you have an edge that they find too sharp, you.  The role of the web in the Arab Spring was noticed, and many tyrants want to be sure these tools are not turned on their rule.


The expected result?  You will be hearing discussion in 2013 about a global treaty on data privacy and ownership.  Pay close attention to these discussions, because they will likely be retroactively applied to the data you have collected.


Today what we know our readers is a valuable asset.  Without diligence, tomorrow it could be a finable offense.

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