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Big Data Governance and Consumer Privacy

At the recent Technology Policy Institute’s annual conference, Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, sent a warning shot across the bows to US companies: she’s watching you, and she meant the Big Data companies storing consumer’s personal data.  In her prepared remarks, she said: “The FTC recognises that the effective use of Big Data has the potential to unleash a new wave of productivity and growth.  The FTC will remain vigilant to ensure that while innovation pushes forward, consumer privacy is not engulfed by that wave.”

Strong words, which Ramirez backed up by highlighting the FTC’s recent privacy suits against Google Inc., Facebook Inc., and others in the last few years; and whilst Facebook didn’t face a penalty but settled agreed charges, I’m sure we all know about Google’s record $25 million settlement with the FTC!

The FTC is pushing Congress for more power to use against businesses that “fail to maintain reasonable security”, and for Congress to pass “baseline privacy legislation” which will also raise transparency in the collection of user information.  In addition, the FTC is planning the release of a report about “data brokers”, those who gather information about consumers…

Data governance is yet another ‘hot topic’ in today’s business world, and businesses are starting to address the issue with the implementation of governance programs.  But it’s not just about structured data held in relational databases; unstructured data is just as important, and it is this form of data that significantly outweighs the structured data, and it’s increasing!

Governing data, be it structured or unstructured, is essentially a form of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and there are a plethora of tools and programs available that can help you manage your content and data, i.e. Microsoft SharePoint, Hadoop, Joomla, Yammer, Huddle, etc.  However, these programs are failing in one area in particular… data governance; and therein lays the potential problem.  With the introduction of the cloud, data storage costs have dropped substantially, but with the exponential rise in generated data, it is becoming much more important to establish the correct retention policies on all forms of data, and its governance, i.e. establishing what data can be retained, what can’t, and enabling all departments to search, access and retrieve relevant content only, particularly if it is requested by regulatory bodies.

So, when you’re looking to implement a content management program, don’t forget to take into consideration data governance; it could save you a lot of time, and money, in the long run!

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