Privacy in the world of Big Data

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my Business Ethics class for a guest lecture, wondering about what I had just heard. The slide was titled, “ I am an Advertiser, you can trust me!” It got me thinking about the ways in which consumers are being manipulated. But then it got me thinking if the advertisers or companies who collect data on their consumers are to be blamed or are the consumers who blindly agree to share their data without understanding the consequences are to be blamed? I decided to further explore this topic and do my assignment on it. I decided to explore Big Data and Privacy.

 

Big Data is a buzzword these days and there is no denying that the technology has helped industries cater to the basic needs of their consumers through customisation. I came across the word Big Data years ago in some news article. But I did not completely understand it until my Digital Transformation of Businesses class. It was only then, did I actually understand what Big Data is. The size or type of data collected is not the only distinguishable feature, it is the insight that this data provides that makes it special. These insights can be used for any commercial purpose, for example, the business model of Uber is based on Big Data, Uber does not own the cars that are rented but it owns the network of those car owners and drivers and thousands of customers who are willing to rent those cars. Big Data became a buzzword because it gave businesses the power to make valuable strategic decisions based on it. It has introduced new horizons for businesses, some organisations choose to be data users, some become data facilitators and yet others choose to be data suppliers.

 

But going back to the initial question, what about the consumers’ privacy? Is that the priority of organisations? There are laws and then there are ethics. Following laws does not imply that organisations are being ethical. Facebook complies with all the regulations yet Cambridge Analytica happened but it is not just Facebook’s fault, it is also the responsibility of consumers to be equally vigilant, to read the consent forms before blindly agreeing to the terms, to have different passwords for different accounts and to have strong passwords. I know it is difficult to have different passwords but there are so many applications these days which remember those passwords for their users. There is always a solution if we are willing to find it. It is also the fault of the lawmakers to not have kept up with the fast-paced technological advancements. The privacy laws and regulations are still archaic in most non-EU countries. Finally, I would just like to say that no regulation can prevent invasion of privacy in this hyper-connected world unless we are careful. So be vigilant and protect your privacy, because no one else can!

Walking in Lancaster and Beyond

While its true that Lancaster is a city, it is undoubtedly on the smaller side compared to many of its peers. The same goes for its collection of shops, and its nightlife – although any true Lancaster student will proudly vouch for The Sugarhouse when it comes to that. For the full city experience, Manchester is just an easy train-ride away. But being one of the more rurally located UK universities, one of the great things Lancaster has to offer is its close proximity to some stunning scenery and beautiful natural environments.

For me, the green sight of the university campus, surrounded by trees, was a welcoming sight on moving-in day, having come from a small rural town. The freedom to be able to walk for five minutes from my flat and reach the campus’ woodland trail was something I took full advantage of whilst living on campus. I can recall one particularly tranquil morning, when, following a night out, I walked around the campus’ green space as the sun came up, and saved a tired bee with a buttercup. Quite a contrasting follow-up to the bright lights and thumping music of The Sugarhouse…

This year, I’ve lived off-campus, and – fortunately, given my love of walking – right next to the canal. Walking up the canal, out of the city, and into the countryside was a great tool for maintaining sanity during those more gruelling revision periods. I’ve been pleased to see that the brothers and sisters of Lancaster’s iconic campus ducks inhabit the canal, and watching ducklings paddling side-by-side with canal boats has been a consistently enjoyable sight. One of the canal’s other great features is that its flanked by pubs and chip shops. Of course, no British walk is complete without a trip to one or the other (or both).

Further afield from Lancaster is the Yorkshire Dales, which my Lancaster college (Bowland til I die) offered a free coach trip to the other week. Armed with Greggs pasties and raincoats, we headed out to the Ingleton waterfalls trail. The foggy weather was a little disappointing at first – not that it’s wise to expect sunny days in the north of England, but ended up only adding to the stunning sights of the area: jagged cliffs flanked with dramatic waterfalls, crashing streams, cobbled walls dotting the hills. There was a café midway through the walk, and a pub at the end. Not bad for somewhere on the doorstep of university.

Lancaster’s own bus station is a surprising gateway to many more green walks. The city’s small size means no one’s far away from the bus station, and the bus station means no one’s far away from the Lake District. Tomorrow, I’ll be going there with some friends to enjoy a rare week of northern sun. Alongside the regular supplies of pasties and sun cream, I’ll be bringing some insect repellent – countless gnat bites being one of the less exciting takeaways from the trip to Ingleton. Of course, there are still many parts of the city and beyond that I’m yet to explore, but it’s been a joy to be able to incorporate walking and nature into student life.