Om Malik: Big Data and Terms of Trust
Insightful piece by Om Malik on the ethical challenges Silicon Valley tech companies face as they amass enormous amount of data on consumers and on the one hand have a to duty to shareholders of their companies to optimally monetize that data and on the other hand have a moral responsibility not to abuse the trust that consumers place in them.
“Like I said, a lack of clarity around data-intentions is to blame. And the only way I see to overcome that challenge is if companies themselves come up with a clear, coherent and transparent approach to data. Instead of an arcane Terms of Service, we need plain and simple Terms of Trust. To paraphrase Peter “Spiderman” Parker’s Uncle Ben — with big data, comes big responsibility. The question is will the gatekeepers of the future rise to the challenge?”
Om, we have written a lot about big data governance in the past. Unfortunately in the long run trust won’t work, it is not a transitive relation and won’t scale across time or number of participants in the system. Fortunately there is an answer – with modern technology the need for trust can also be eliminated
Think about the difference between Bitcoin and the banking system. In traditional systems like banking there is a need for consumers to trust the banks with whom they deposit their money. In distributed consensus systems like Bitcoin the need for trust in eliminated as participants in the system can verify their transactions independently by using the public ledger. There is no centralized ‘trust authority’.
This is what Marc Andreessen calls Distributed Trust although “Distributed Consensus” is better. By making everything widely witnessed (the public ledger in the case of Bitcoin) then it becomes impossible to participants to deny that events took place (non-repudiation).
Transparency of the Information Supply Chain
The same principle can be applied to Big Data. By integrating KSI into Big Data platforms the data itself can remain confidential but afterwards it cannot be denied as to how that data was used – end to end public verification of the information supply chain.
With this new form of accountability power over how data is used is returned back to consumers and regulators – Knowing that their actions cannot be denied the owners of big data sets will be forced into good behavior – and change in the (consumer specified) operating rules (integrity) of the system can be detected.