Big Data needs its checks and balances

In the context of the evident dangers of Monsanto’s Green Data Revolution and its intrusion on the life of farmers, Roberto Bissio argues:

“While “big data” has enormous potential, the potential is for evil as well as for good. In promoting a “data revolution” as part of any monitoring and accountability mechanism attention must be given to privacy and rights issues. Miniaturization enabled broad participation as shown by the use of mobile cameras to document human rights violations or convene demonstrations during the Arab uprisings. Independent producers can use cheap handheld cameras to create movies able to compete with those from huge Hollywood studios. But “big data” requires harnessing big computing capabilities, so big that they are out of the reach of most civil society organizations and even of most developing countries.

The Guardian blogger Anne Marie Cox published an “educated guess” of what a minimum list of restraints should include to guarantee basic rights:

* Individual control: the right to exercise control over what personal data organizations collect from them and how they use it.

* Transparency: the right to easily understandable information about privacy and security practices.

* Focused collection: the right to reasonable limits on the personal data that organizations collect and retain.

* Accountability: the right to have personal data handled by organizations with appropriate measures in place to assure they adhere to the Bill of Rights and relevant human rights standards.

In her UN speech in 2013, protesting the electronic spying revealed by Edward Snowden, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff added an intergovernmental dimension: “The time is ripe to create the conditions to prevent cyberspace from being used as a weapon of war, through espionage, sabotage, and attacks against systems and infrastructure of other countries. The United Nations must play a leading role in the effort to regulate the conduct of States with regard to these technologies.”

Without adequate checks and balances, the “data revolution” could become Orwellian nightmare.”

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