Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 17:21 EDT

Are Companies Overstepping the Line between Big Data and Big Brother?

August 27, 2013

Business and IT Solutions Provider ICC Details Five Questions Every Company Must Ask about their Data to Protect Customers, Partners and Suppliers from Prying Eyes; New White Paper Details Concerns Every C-Level Executive Should Have about Data Privacy

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 27, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Companies that hold any amount of data on their customers must now — today — begin thinking very seriously about what will happen to their reputations and their businesses if they do not take immediate steps to reassure customers their data is safe and private. Questions about who actually owns, and therefore controls the rights to, customer data are bound to surface very quickly as the world realizes privacy, as it was once defined and understood, is gone. To guide IT professionals in thinking about Big Data privacy challenges, ICC, a nationally recognized enterprise technology leader that provides business-critical application development, digital and big data analytic solutions to its Fortune 1000 national and global clients, has defined five questions every company must ask about their data outlined below and offers a new white paper about Big Data and privacy issues, “Big Data: Big Brother or Guardian Angel?”

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When news broke of the U.S. government’s massive spying program called PRISM two things became immediately clear: the era of Big Brother had dawned and Big Data had just erased everything we thought we knew about privacy. The news worsened as large companies with terabytes of customer data came under fire for supplying the National Security Agency (NSA) with information about their customers. While those companies have denied direct involvement in the program, millions of people who thought their data was safe learned very quickly that was an illusion.

At the heart of this issue is trust, or loss of trust, and questions about customer privacy. Already U.S.-cloud services providers are losing overseas business due to potential customer fears their data will fall into the hands of U.S. spy agencies.

To avoid this fate, U.S. companies must begin to ask very hard questions about the information contained in their data stores: What is the definition of private or personally identifiable information (PII) in a post-PRISM world? A customer’s name? Their address? These used to be considered public information but if they can be connected (and they can be via Big Data) to other data about that individual or company, such as social security numbers, overseas bank accounts, or medical records, does that mean this data should now be sacrosanct?

Data privacy and ownership will become legal battlegrounds in this new hyper-connected era. Until new laws are passed it’s going to be up to individual organizations to show customers that they are protecting their data.

Jim Gallo, ICC National Director for Business Analytics, who has penned a new white paper on this very topic, states that there are a number of questions business executives are going to need to be able to answer: “Can you protect your data from government agencies armed with writs from super-secret courts? How do you reassure your customers you will never turn over their information to these agencies? How are you going to stand against the full weight of the U.S. government to protect your clients and keep their business from becoming everyone’s business?”

The answers to these questions start with five more questions about governance and access, the answers to which will constitute the first steps along the road to an over-arching policy safeguarding your most important digital asset: your data.

Those five questions every CIO, CEO and chief counsel needs to be asking about their company’s data are:

    1. Do we understand the legal definition of PII and what our legal
       obligations are, and have we clearly communicated this to our employees?
    2. If we purchase datasets culled from social media sites, or mine the sites
       ourselves, does the fact that site users have publicly disclosed personal
       information fall within the legal realm of PII?  More importantly, how
       does this relate to information about citizens from other countries that
       have banned the sharing of PII outside of their jurisdictions?
    3. What is our corporate policy and what are our ethical obligations where
       legal shades of gray exist?
    4. How do we identify, let alone isolate and control access to PII embedded
       in unstructured data such as blogs and audio and video files?
    5. In the event we receive a subpoena for our customers' information, can we
       or should we disclose this to our customers?

“We want to believe that government and private entities are harnessing big data for the public good,” says Gallo. “But one person’s good intentions can be seen as another’s misguided deeds. The lines between what’s legal, what’s ethical and what’s not are being blurred by big data.”

Want to Learn More?

ICC’s Jim Gallo, National Director for Business Analytics, offers thoughts and concerns about Big Data and privacy issues all c-level executives should be aware of in a new white paper. Download a complimentary copy of “Big Data: Big Brother or Guardian Angel?” from our website at http://bit.ly/14WMmgf

About ICC

ICC (Information Control Company), based in Columbus, Ohio, is a leading provider of enterprise technology solutions. With a staff over 500 highly trained consultants, we are experts in Strategy, User Experience, Visual Design, Engineering, Project Management, Business Analytics and Quality Assurance. Using these skills, we develop and deploy innovative, business-critical solutions that enable Fortune 500 and mid-market organizations to improve operational efficiencies. Our Business, Digital and Technology solutions give our clients a competitive advantage that helps them drive revenues and increase margin.

Clutch is a world-class digital ad agency inside the walls of ICC. Together, they’re a collection of seasoned strategists, user experience specialists, writers, art directors and developers who specialize in the art and science of Interactive Conversations.

ICC is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and an IBM Premier Business Partner. Clients include Nationwide, Cardinal Health, McGraw Hill, the State of Ohio, and Honda.

ICC is committed to serving its clients, community and country by developing U.S.-based leaders who work hard to strengthen the American economy. More information is available at http://www.icctechnology.com.

Media Contacts:

Theresa Hodgson



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Rich Mullikin

Communication Strategy Group for ICC





Source: PR Newswire