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The Risks of Big Data


There are many threats and risks of big data being discussed by technology experts. As we know, any kind of information may be extremely valuable and harmful. Not all data has the potential to be destructive, but how you acquire and utilize, it might change that. An email address is an excellent example of it. Your email is in danger when you provide it to a corporate unaware of its uses. While it is likely that many who gather your email address may send you funny or professional content, you agree to this and are aware that it will occur.

But when a firm obtains your email address without your permission, the worries intensify. The interested party never let you choose to opt out of communications and mined your data without your knowledge or consent. The situation is even dire in the case of more sensitive data, such as your phone number, home address, family information, or other personal identifiers.

What is Big Data?

The term “big data,” coined in 2005, is used to characterize the massive amounts of information that defy typical analysis. Governments, commercial businesses, and public service providers are all attempting to use big data. However, despite its numerous potential benefits, some risks are still involved. In this article, we will examine the potential risks of big data while emphasizing the privacy, security, and ethical challenges it raises.

The Risks of Big Data

The dangers associated with big data can be split into four broad categories: security concerns, ethical concerns, the intentional abuse of big data by malicious actors (e.g., organized crime), and accidental misuse.

Ethical Concerns Regarding Big Data

Assuming that businesses can protect our data from hackers and cyberattacks, it is still possible for them to misuse the data themselves. While data protection rules are in place, businesses still have considerable ambiguity around how legally collected data can be utilized.

Consider the debt and credit card companies. It should be no surprise that these companies apply limits based on user behavior. For example, if you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know that your insurance rate will increase. Big data enables these businesses to make increasingly accurate forecasts about the future, enabling them to conduct intrusive financial profiling.

There is also heightened concern about how Big Data can manipulate and control people. While this might not seem harmful initially, it can profoundly affect how we view the world and make decisions. For example, Facebook has been accused of using its algorithms to manipulate people’s emotions and decision-making.

Big Data in Marketing

Security Concerns with Big Data

The more information a business accumulates, the more expensive and challenging it becomes to store. According to the Risk-Based Security Mid-Year Data Breach Report, data breaches exposed 4.1 billion records during the first half of 2019. This underscores the significance of data security and the difficulties corporations confront in protecting our data.

The privacy issue is relevant here as many institutions have unprecedented access to our data, including governments, social media corporations, insurance firms, and healthcare providers. While they are obligated by data protection rules (with the possibility of hefty fines), the growing frequency of high-profile data breaches over the past several years indicates that additional action is required.

Organizations and substantial technology companies may have information about where we live, go,  and spend our money. With personal bank details and other sensitive information under their protection and cyberattacks on the rise, is it fair to trust big companies for security?

The problem of privacy breaches will only grow as data becomes more visible. As the use of big data analytics continues to increase, so do the concerns over data privacy and security. Big data brings a whole host of new security risks that need to be considered.

Big Data and Privacy

Misuse of Big Data by Malicious Actors

Another risk associated with big data is that unauthorized individuals may access sensitive information. We are projected to generate 149 zettabytes of data each day by 2024. That is not easy to visualize, but you can rest assured that it’s an enormous amount, considerably more than any organization can handle or evaluate efficiently. However, hackers and cyber attackers can target this information to sell it on the DarkNet.

Phishing, bank fraud, and insurance scams are classic instances of organized criminal groups intentionally misusing big data. The days of emails promising a million bucks in exchange for your bank account information are long gone. If you have recently been a scam victim, you know their sophistication.

Big data also plays a significant role in the misinformation and dissemination of fake news that has dominated public discourse over the past five years. Using big data, nefarious organizations can target advertisements or fake news to influence our thoughts, beliefs, and voting behavior. The widespread popularity of fake news is because it is well-targeted and preys on people’s concerns, both of which can be tracked via big data. With the possibility of data theft increasing daily, this problem has yet to be resolved.

ENISA Threat Landscape

Unintentional Misuse of Big Data

While individuals who intend to abuse big data are a worry, not all threats are necessarily planned. Introducing machine learning is a critical instrument for evaluating and extracting insights from large amounts of data. However, while machine learning algorithms learn independently, they must first be trained to learn, leaving room for human bias. Inaccurate insights might result from human bias, poor data analytics practices, or poor data quality. There will be negative consequences if these insights are used to make crucial financial or safety decisions.

As data science is a relatively new profession, we cannot yet foresee how such challenges will evolve. The usage of artificial intelligence is increasing, yet this emerging technology carries unknown risks. While it is doubtful that machines will overtake humanity shortly, artificial intelligence is not without its perils. AI is already capable of astounding feats, but it has limitations. For instance, it lacks human sensibility and is not particularly adept at nuance. This can have tragic consequences, as seen by a self-driving Uber vehicle’s 2018 death of a lady. The collision occurred because the car’s AI could not comprehend that pedestrians occasionally jaywalk.


Big data is a powerful tool that has the potential to revolutionize our world for the better. It can be harmful in the wrong hands. As we become increasingly reliant on big data, we must also be aware of the risks associated with its misuse. Only by doing so can we ensure that big data is used for good and not for harm.

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