Big Data: A Double-Edged Sword for Society and Individual Freedom

Today, we are thrilled to present our latest episode featuring an exclusive interview with Sander Klous, Partner in Charge for Big Data and Analysis at KPMG, one of the world’s leading consultancy firms.

Before joining KPMG, Mr. Klous began his career at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, where he worked on the discovery of Higgs particles, operating the Large Hadron Collider and its experiments. He is also a Professor of Big Data Ecosystems for Business and Society at the University of Amsterdam and the author of two best-selling management books, “We Are Big Data” and “Building Trust in Smart Society.”

Watch&Listen to the full interview.

Big Data is rapidly transforming the way businesses, governments, and individuals interact with the world. According to Forbes, the amount of data in the world doubles every two years, and it is predicted that by 2025, the global data sphere will grow to 163 zettabytes. This exponential growth is due to the increasing number of devices and sensors connected to the internet, social media, and cloud computing. Big Data helps businesses make informed decisions, improve customer experiences, and increase efficiency – retailers can analyze customer purchase history to predict future buying habits and tailor marketing campaigns to specific demographics. The analysis of this data has become critical to many industries, including healthcare, finance, and retail.

Sander Klous

Partner in Charge of Big Data&Analysis at KPMG

However, according to Professor Sander Klous, Big Data has also raised concerns about individual privacy and freedom of choice. As the amount of data collected and analyzed grows, individuals may feel that their personal information is being used without their consent, and this can lead to a lack of trust between individuals and organizations that collect their data.

Furthermore, using Big Data can lead to algorithmic bias, where algorithms used to analyze the data may discriminate against certain groups. For example, a study conducted by Obermeyer (2019) found that an algorithm used by a healthcare provider to predict which patients would benefit from extra medical care was biased against black patients resulting in black patients receiving less medical care than they need.

World Economic Forum stated, “The concerns around big data include not only individual privacy but also the wider implications for democracy, freedom of expression, and freedom of choice.” Big Data can be used by governments to monitor citizens’ behavior, potentially leading to a violation of their privacy and freedom of expression.  

Professor Klous, in our interview discusses that as Big Data continues to evolve, it is crucial to consider its impact on society and individuals, ensure its use is ethical and transparent, and respect individual privacy and freedom of choice. “Societies must develop and invest in data analysis and put controls around it as they would in any other operational domain.” Klous notes that his ethical concerns focus more on autonomy than privacy. He suggests implementing mechanisms to help people understand how algorithms drive decision-making.

The question of liability is also significant when it comes to AI systems. As smart systems become more autonomous, assigning liability to the system’s decisions becomes impossible. In the known case when Apple Maps had a mistake in the bike routes and took tourists through a tunnel on the highway in Amsterdam, endangering their lives, the tourist held Apple responsible for sending them in the wrong direction. While AI systems become autonomous, the liability issue becomes even more critical.

In conclusion, while Big Data has the potential to improve our lives, we must be aware of its impact on society and individual citizens. Societies must invest in data analysis and implement controls to ensure privacy, security, and autonomy while addressing the liability issue. Professor Klous argues that only through a combination of investment, control, legislation and systemic oversight can we ensure the responsible use of Big Data and AI for the development of society.

Stay tuned for more great interviews coming your way!