The sheer volume of data now available has triggered all sorts of concerns about what should and shouldn’t be accessible. But Stan is not overly impressed with recent fears regarding privacy and big data.
“The good side of big data is that we know a lot about people, the bad side is that there are always some actors who will abuse it,” he concedes, suggesting that perhaps the real issue is not so much what data businesses can access, but rather what they are going to do with it.
“Consumers are asking themselves: ‘I am sharing all this personal information, but what is in it for me?’ And that is a very legitimate question,” says Stan. “My frustration is that conversations are focusing on ‘let me protect your data’ and not enough on ‘what’s in it for the consumer’.”
Another frustration for Stan is the fixation with the novelty of big data. “I just don’t buy into that, because data was always big relative to the computing power there was at the time. So when I started, we used to do manual tabulations of questionnaires from surveys among 1,000 people and that was considered big data. But now a 13-year-old can do a survey with an app and get 2,000 questionnaires analysed in five minutes… so it’s all relative.”