Big data privacy: Four ways your data governance strategy affects security, privacy and trust

By Tony Hamilton

One of the positive effects of big data (and there are many) is that it is forcing more dialogue – and more cooperation – between business and IT groups. Once adversaries, these two groups are coming together, focused on getting insight from the data and tailoring the view to their particular needs. While figuring out what to do with this data is important, a related topic is big data privacy, which focuses on whether big data is being protected in compliance with existing standards.

Big data privacy falls under the broad umbrella of IT governance and is a critical component of your IT strategy. You need a level of confidence in how the data is handled to make sure your organization isn't at risk of a nasty data exposure. That extends to privacy for all your data, including big data sets that are increasingly becoming part of the mainstream IT environment.

Privacy is also related to issues like data monetization. If the data that you have isn’t secure, high quality or fit for purpose, can you trust the monetary value placed on that data? And, as the amount of data grows, do you have a strategy for larger privacy efforts, or big data privacy, in your organization?

The recommended approach... is to blend your business rules and IT rules. If you can accomplish this collaborative effort through the use of governance solutions to establish a big data privacy framework within your IT environment, then all the better.

The push towards self-service and the need for big data privacy

As any other privacy or security issue, you must balance big data privacy issues against your business goals. For issues like delivering e-commerce or online customer experiences, the impact on the initiative can have a direct effect on the bottom line. After all, without a good e-commerce experience, customers may choose to go elsewhere. A poor online support program may lead to increased churn.

More interactions with customers means you are collecting and packaging more information about customers about their accounts, their purchases and their preferences. More data can lead to a better customer experience, but it can also put you at risk. There is simply a greater risk of exposure of personal or confidential information.

As a result, data and IT governance efforts are finding a new push as organizations begin to collect data for more "public" consumption. And business and IT, once mortal enemies (almost), are now realizing that data is everyone’s responsibility.

Preparing for privacy in a big data world

When planning big data privacy efforts, you often hear questions around the sources of data and its usage. There are many strategies focused on the untapped potential of data as it arrives from all types of sources. You can find hundreds, if not thousands, of articles detailing how this information can be used from everything from enhancing an online lifestyle to a personal e-commerce experience via digital business practices.

However, there is tendency to avoid the delicate subject of how to support privacy of the individual and how to protect data in an increasingly digital world. The complicating factor is how to keep a balance between:

  • The value to end users.
  • The level of privacy and protection is necessary for both you and your customer.

This issue has to be addressed if you want your digital business practices to be seen as credible to your customers as providers of big data content.

Strike a balance: Big data privacy vs. big data usefulness

The recommended approach for clarifying these concerns is to blend your business rules and IT rules. If you can accomplish this collaborative effort through the use of governance solutions to establish a big data privacy framework within your IT environment, then all the better.

Recently, Steve Culp wrote a column for Forbes detailing how better data management leads to better fraud and crime prevention. One of the key points to consider is data quality. Culp writes, “…banks need to establish central data screening and reconciliation processes.” To do that, they should implement data governance to help create “clear lines of responsibility among business process owners, their technology counterparts and the fraud and financial crime data management teams.”

Naturally, you have to strike a balance between big data privacy, security and performance. To help you create a better way to implement data governance in a big data world, I’ve included a useful checklist for your IT and business groups:

  1. Implement business rules on big data – By making business rules part of your IT infrastructure, you get consistency, operational latency and workflow control across the enterprise.
  2. Know your boundaries – Check the quality of your source data before putting it into production. And ensure your sources of information are reputable and responsible. It’s better to spend more time at this phase than to regret any type of misinformation and resulting business process change.
  3. Create privacy and privilege levels – Review the standards and use the filters. Here, it’s important to understand what record filters can do for you and how to apply these filters for a given usage of data to service insight approach.
  4. Add data quality, no matter how big the data is – Data quality checks in your world matter. In “old-school IT,” garbage in means garbage out. Apply a data quality process to ensure your actual analysis and insights reflect the reality of the data at the foundation of your decisions.

Of course there are always debates, both within an organization and in the market overall, around governance, security and trust. Regardless of the details, it’s vital to have a big data privacy effort in place. These steps should be addressed during the design and implementation process – and as part of reviews and proof of concept trials – to make sure they fit in your big data environment.


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