Debate over big data and privacy is just getting started

For years, the tension between privacy and big data has been apparent, but with emerging technologies generating huge amounts of data, the debate will intensify.

As the number of data-generating devices in everyday life continues to grow, so grows the debate about how much of that data should be considered public, and when personal data should be considered private.

“We have all this information, and [for] much of it, we haven’t really decided what’s private versus public domain,” said Mark Testoni, president and CEO of SAP National Security Services, a U.S.-based subsidiary of SAP that consults for federal security organizations and overseers of critical infrastructure, like dams, electrical grids and nuclear power facilities. He sees the debate over big data and privacy heating up.

“You can see very important, good reasons for this data to be considered public, but there’s also, potentially, security concerns,” Testoni said. “The big debate that we’re going to see over the next few years is what is considered public versus private.”

This issue has been in the headlines a lot recently. In December, a county prosecutor in Arkansas demanded that Amazon turn over data from a customer’s Echo smart speaker. A man was found dead at the customer’s home, and the prosecutor believes the speech-parsing service may have recorded information that might explain the death.