Technology innovations such as Big Data, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are among the most advanced to have emerged in recent years, bringing substantial benefits for society and consumers. However, with great advancement comes great responsibility, and privacy issues are among the most challenging that organisations face.

“Data is used in every facet of business,” says Martin Owen, vice president of Erwin. “Big Data provides a vehicle for organisations to use vast amounts of data without necessarily structuring its use, and AI and ML look to make sense of it by providing algorithms and context. That said, privacy is critical, as technology allows data to be used anywhere, by anybody.”

Indeed, a 2017 Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) report – ‘Big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data protection’ – characterises privacy as an “enabling right”, a right that enables not only societal benefits such as dignity, personality and community, but also organisational benefits like creativity, innovation and trust. These benefits, according to the report, will be strengthened under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which requires organisations to be more transparent and accountable for what they do with personal data – a requirement that applies to Big Data, AI and machine learning.

“Privacy is a major issue across the globe at the moment and rightly so,” says Chris Gayner, director of labs at Symphony Ventures. “From a citizen’s perspective, the implications include data theft, financial fraud and loss of data. From a business perspective, we can add reputation damage – particularly for publicly traded companies in which a major impact in brand or commercial reputation can have a detrimental impact on share price or trading relations.”

Jul-Sep 2018 Issue

Fraser Tennant