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Education on the benefits and perils of big data is essential - BCS Report

Trust is the key driver for internet usage and without it, the benefits and advantages of big data could be lost - according to a new *report from BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

Louise Bennett, Chair of BCS Security, a community of security experts says: “A discussion on the ethical issues on ‘big data’ exploitation by governments and businesses is needed. There are obvious benefits that can be secured in areas such as health and social care, disaster management and relief, and solving or discouraging crime. However, misuse of big data could result in lack of trust in the internet and ultimately all these advantages could be lost. Therefore, the education of citizens on the benefits and perils of big data is essential.”

BCS supports an ethical approach to the use of big data arguing for the need for transparency, control and consent in situations where the data could identify individual people - which is increasingly the case. All users of big data should be encouraged and helped to understand the risks and limitations that come with it, including the risk of de-anonymisation. 

The Institute is calling for international approaches to identity management, law enforcement and transaction management on the internet. These need to be specific to the issues, clear, unambiguous and in step with the speed of development in order to ensure the internet is a trustworthy place to do business.

Louise continues: “Ethical use of big data will support the growth of the digital economy, but misuse could seriously damage trust in the internet as a whole. Looking to the future, we believe that the ethical use of big data and the associated local and global linking of the so called ‘internet of things’ into critical infrastructures will become a major issue for government and society to address.”

The report recommends that it is important to maximise the value of the internet for individuals, society and businesses and in order to do this, it is necessary to foster trust by:

  • Effective law enforcement in cyberspace, including international co-operation.
  • Identity mechanisms that are sufficient for the transaction and reliable.
  • Clarity on contractual liabilities and redress for internet transactions.
  • Legislation and regulation that is proportionate and understandable.

The report is available in PDF format at: www.bcs.org/identity

*Aspects of Identity 2014-15.

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