As big data has evolved beyond buzzword status to become a substantive force that is helping business, government and individuals gain helpful insights, the issue of data privacy has moved to the forefront. While the quest for insight has rarely been stronger or more necessary, concern over protecting the integrity of data has given many parties pause.
Looking at health care as just one example, there is an obvious fine line between the amazing good that big data can do and the need to protect people’s privacy.
Today, big data is driving efforts behind the sequencing of the human genome, which hopefully will lead to breakthroughs in cancer treatment and personalized medicine. This data and the technology behind it is responsible for the falling cost of genome sequencing — from $95.3 million in 2001 to $6,600 in 2012, according to the U.S. government’s National Human Genome Research Institute. The time it takes for genome sequencing has dropped dramatically, as well, from a matter of months to mere days.