Data Science Digital Transformation Technology and Innovation

Big data or big brother

Agnès Lopez
Written by Agnès Lopez

Big data or big brother

Today data is all around us. Every day we hear of data. The word Big Data has become an all-encompassing word. We hear all kinds of contradictory statements on that subject. The pros and cons of Big Data: everyone defends their own point of view. But what is it really: Big Data or Big Brother? And if the key to Big Data success simply was in the regulation?

What is Big Data

First of all let us try to define the term Big Data. As the name suggests, Big Data represents something big and linked to data, that is to say all digital data – structured or not – that can be collected through multiple sources: mobile applications, social networks, websites, wireless networks, RFID readers, digital cameras…

The volume is such that we cannot process them with the use of traditional data processing systems. Especially as the “Big” of today will surely not be the same as tomorrow. We must be able to store, process and use this data. The challenge is even greater to do so while respecting ethics and privacy.

>> get a great overview on YouTube

What characterizes Big Data is not only Volume. It is also its Variety (different forms of data), its Velocity (analysis of streaming data) and its Veracity (uncertainty of data): the so-called “FOUR V’s of Big Data”.

Four V of Big Data

Big data, our digital ally for tomorrow

To have so many data at our fingertips has many advantages. We cannot deny it. Here are just a few examples to illustrate this.


Thanks to the collection, cross-checking and analysis of all these data (or rather a part of them – we are still talking here nonetheless about billions), we will see the development of predictive medicine (e.g. prediction of epidemics and identification of people at risk), genetics may benefit from unexpected research and statistics data, personalized care will democratize for the good of all, health care costs will decrease while their quality will increase…

Body as source of big data


If Big Data represents a considerable asset for the health industry, marketing will not stay still. If users’ data are already used in this area, they will be a little more each day. We will know all about the customer, before he knows it himself. We will be able to increasingly offer loyalty programs increasingly adapted to his needs, the user experience will be continuously optimized thanks to a growing knowledge of his preferences, his purchasing trends, his habits…


Transportation will also largely benefit from this move. And again in the end it is us who will benefit. Road transport (better flow of road networks, alternative routes and optimization of traffic control systems in real time, best traffic information, improved prevention, …) but also transport in general (improved customer service, trips and schedules optimization, lower costs, …) will quickly become one of the greatest fan of big data.

Fight against crime

But the definitely greatest fan would be the police and all institutions fighting crime. With all these data it will be possible to spot patterns of behavior, to track weapons and their users, to analyze their use, to determine dangerous zones … to predict crimes!

Here are some of the promises of Big Data.

Big data, the digital spy of tomorrow

But leave open access to so much data for major industrial, marketing, political and other players, is it not a bit risky?

If all the data that concerned our health were not collected for the good of all, but to allow the insurances to have a better knowledge of their policyholders and decide who should pay more and according to what criteria?

What if all this information could or could not contribute to our hiring? The analysis and cross-checking of the data would simply put labels on us. We would be recruited by algorithms.

Would Big Data always be our ally if after analyzing all the statistics about us, our bank – that was willing to support us – would refuse our loan application because – according to calculations – we are “people at risk”?

All this not to mention the ethical issues that arose by the revelations made by Edward Snowden in 2013 (;

What about our privacy? Our free will? Our freedom as an individual? Our human “touch” on data? Who cares about all that?

An adapted regulation to limit the drifts

It is obvious that it becomes urgent and important to restore confidence before the Big Data will come to ruin. For that, only one solution: to establish a real regulation and to officially communicate on it. Today many governments are working on this regulation – the US, Japan, Europe …

Privacy and ethics are at the heart of the debate, and that’s true in all countries.

Why then not work all together internationally, like we do with topics such as the environment? Big Data – just like the environment – concerns the entire planet and more time will pass and the more the problem will arise.

What if today Big Data survival depends on tomorrows global regulation?

About the author

Agnès Lopez

Agnès Lopez

Digital communication manager full time.
Student in Digital Business Strategy at Grenoble Business School part time.
Fully passionate in all DIGITAL MATTERS!