Big Data Collection: What’s in it for Me?

Sep 25, 2014

Girl with a bar code on her neck, the protection personal data

Many of us stand to benefit from certain types of big data collection. In the medical field, big data can be applied in numerous ways, for example: predictive modeling for R&D, enhancing clinical trial design, or conducting Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER).

The idea behind big data is that everybody’s data goes into a big pool, which is then analyzed to find patterns and trends.  We may learn that x and y are indicators of condition z later on in life, and we can then institute preventative care… and, that’s certainly using Big Data to benefit people.  [Click here to read more about big data in the Healthcare community]

Or, it is mostly used to give companies a competitive edge, like in the Financial Services industry.  Financial services firms are utilizing big data to transform their processes, their organizations and perhaps, their entire industry. This isn’t quite as beneficial on the individual level as in the healthcare industry scenario, but we still stand to benefit, from lower prices, or higher growth in our long-term accounts, or even just by having expectations based on a big data set.  [Click here for an IBM article on big data in the Financial Services world]

But, on the flip side,  big data could also be used to advertise to us in seemingly manipulative ways.  And what if sensitive data gets into the wrong hands? Many people are concerned about that.

In a research article conducted by BI and data software review firm Software Advice, Consumer Positions on Data Collection and Use, they take a look at how people feel about data collection as a concept, as it relates to Medical, Financial, and Employee-related data.

It turns out many of the people they interviewed do not have a strong opinion, but a few themes were clear. The report showed that people over the age of 45 were more uncomfortable or skeptical about sharing their personal data in general.  The older you are, the more likely you have been burned by sharing personal data. People under the age of 45 tend to be more optimistic.  They are still cautious, but are more likely to share their data if there is a clear benefit to them.

 Comfort With Use of Data (Age-in general)Comfort With Use of Data (Age-if benefit)


The full report can be found here, but as a general rule, if a company is going to collect data, people share more generously if the reason and benefit to sharing that information is transparent from the start.