Managing the Dangers and Cultivating the Value of Customers' Data: Free Essay

Published: 2023-05-02
Managing the Dangers and Cultivating the Value of Customers' Data: Free Essay
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Data analysis Amazon Cyber security Customer service
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1800 words
15 min read

There is no universally accepted definition for big data. Big Data is a term used to refer to large volumes of structured and unstructured data that flood a business organisation on a day to day basis. Big Data is currently one of the most prominent topics and probably the most controversial. Most of the businesses involved in big data are large multinational corporations, and that increases the controversial nature of the subject. The late 20th century was characterised by one of the fastest technological advancements that have ever been witnessed in the history of mankind. The digital age ushered in a host of new companies that were centred around information technology and that strategically positioned them to influence human society in significant ways. Romansky (2019) describes the trend as the informatisation of society. It is a term for building a community based on information. It has led policymakers and people alike to be worried about the power that such corporations have over them, due to their access to personal information. Consumers are increasingly concerned about their privacy due to the amount of data that large corporations collect on them. These concerns are for a good reason as there have been several high-profile cases involving large corporations misusing customer's data or handling it in a way that compromises their security. Uber, has had its fair share of scandals involving customers' privacy. Back in 2014, Uber was caught in a scandal that included one of its employees tracking a journalist who was late for an interview with an Uber executive. The feature was not known as "God view" which was not available to drivers and customers, but apparently, it was open to Uber employees (Morgan, 2017). Less than two years later, the company was involved in another scandal after a group of hackers used credential surfing to gain entry into the storage cloud of the parent company servers. The hackers managed to access the information of over 2.7 million UK customers. The company was forced to pay 385,000 pounds as a fine for data protection failure. Therefore, analysis and evaluation of the impact of using bid data on customer privacy reveal that the security of personal information is a critical issue to consider when talking about big data.

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Big data has become so important in the modern world that it has become some form of currency. There is an entire industry that has been developed around customer information. Some companies have specialized in the collection and exchange of personal information (Crain, 2018). Crain (2018), refers to them as data brokers. They collect massive information on consumers and resell such information to other interested parties. The buyers use such information to determine consumer behavior and try and predict the consumers' next move. While such actions seem harmless, the relinquishing of control over one's data and privacy alters the balance of power between the subjects of the data and those holding the data (Acquisti, Brandimarte, and Loewenstein, 2015).

Positive Impacts of Big Data

Big Data has some social, economic and political impacts. These impacts can either be positive or negative, depending on the nature of their application. From a financial perspective, big data has had a positive effect on businesses enabling them to streamline their operations. According to Morgan (2017), big data can make organizations more efficient by optimising resource allocation, facilitating innovation, adaptability, and improving processes. For instance, companies can combine and analyse the data from test drives of prototypes (Morgan, 2017). Big Data has shortened the time of analyzing various types of data from months to within a few days.

Big data has enhanced socio-economic efficiency through the strengthening of security, access to social services, and personalized services. Big Data has also led to increased availability of relevant information and innovative platforms for communications (Morgan, 2017). Still, on the social front, there is no doubt that big data has improved the provision of government services (Lane et al., 2014). Enforcement agencies can have an efficient deployment of resources, increase their presence in areas affected by crime, and respond quickly to such incidences of crime. Big data has also been employed in research where scientists have used significant volumes of data to improve the welfare of humans. Big data is being used in detecting drug interaction as well as the design and implementation of optimal drug therapies. Governments and scientists are using big data to fight Covid 19 by identifying and analyzing population clusters as well as travel and behavior patterns of those infected and those at the risk of infection. Policymakers use big data to help them make decisions that will affect the population as well as the world.

Negative Impacts of Big Data

Despite the advances that have emerged to human society as a result of big data, certain disadvantages can be associated with big data.

For one companies have been proven to use big data for aggressive marketing strategies to try and sway the customer into buying their products and services. Companies gather information on consumers' shopping patterns, search history, likes and dislikes, and preferred platforms and use that information to aggressively market themselves to the point of almost removing the freedom of choice from the consumer.

Big data has also called compromised the fundamental principles of democracy. Politicians and policymakers are using big data to manipulate the masses and sway their opinion towards their favour. Extensive information technology companies such as Facebook and Alphabet hold so much sway over the information available on the internet that they could influence the outcome of the elections using a few tweaks in their systems. Furthermore, they have the power to change what information they make available to members of the public, and the type of information to withhold.

However, the most significant disadvantage of big data is that it compromises the security and privacy of consumers. The information gathered on consumers can sometimes turn out to be too intrusive and invasive to personal privacy (Kshetri 2014). Corporations can use non-personal data to make predictions that are sensitive such as financial status, sexual orientation, political affiliations or addiction. With such power, it is not clear whether consumers maintain their freedom to choose. The techniques employed by these firms to market themselves tend to be predatory. Big data has enabled companies to calculate the probability that consumers suffered from a particular disease and use that information to sell him or her insurance policies they do not need.

Big Data Privacy Concerns

The world is currently awash with so much data that it is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine human civilization without information technology. To put it in perspective, in 2015 alone, the world created the same amount of information as was created during all the previous years of human civilization (Helbing et al., 2019). If that doesn't put it into perspective, as of 2018, 90 percent of the data in the world had been created within the preceding two years (Marr, 2019). The Italian writer Italo Calvino described it as the memory of the world (Helbing et al., 2019). That is a full digital copy of humans' physical universe.

Humans have been able to create such information through their digital traces. These digital traces are what companies collect to form big data. Imagine person A who wants to buy a book. They go to the most significant bookstore in the world, Amazon. To obtain a book they will need to sign up, and that entails giving out some of their personal information such as name, phone number, year of birth, email address, residence, gender and credit card information. At that point, Amazon already knows the customer's name, date of birth, place of residence, gender, email address, credit card information and of course, their IP address.

If a stranger was to approach person A and ask for similar information. The most they would get out of the person is their name. There is a certain level of trust that comes with online transactions. The anonymity of the person on the other end of the laptop or phone screen may make people feel less vulnerable. People willingly give out such information because they believe the government has taken necessary precautions to protect their private information. In Australia, the Privacy Act of 1988 (Cth) is the principal data protection legislation. Other general legislations that influence data protection include; Do Not Call Register Act 2006 (Cth) and Spam Act 2003 (Cth). There are also other legislations in the state and territorial level, which address the issue of data protection.

Such laws and regulations are meant to prevent companies from misusing customers' data. It is because of such requirements that consumers willingly enter their personal information into various company websites because they believe that such laws will shield them from the abuse of customer data. However, the question is, do these laws prevent customers from an invasion of their privacy and protect their personal information from exploitation?

Impact of Data Protection Legislations

Data protection legislation has had a varied level of effects on the protection of customers' privacy and the misuse of such information. Local and international companies which deal with customer data have had to adhere to a certain level of restrictions as stipulated in Australian law. There are cases where companies tried to circumnavigate these laws and ended up violating these laws. The Information Commissioner has found Facebook guilty of violating the Privacy Act 1988 by disclosing the private information of some 300,000 Australian Facebook users to the third-party App "This Is Your Digital Life." The case is currently in the Federal Court and should the court. If found guilty, the company will be forced to pay a maximum of AUD$ 1,700,000 for each serious or repeated interference with privacy (CISOMAG, 2020).

However, that is not the first time that Facebook has been caught violating data privacy laws in Australia. Facebook has recently been involved in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which was a breach of data that allowed Cambridge Analytica to harvest the profiles of over 50 million people and use that information to sway political elections. The UK's Information Commissioner's Office fined Facebook 500,000 pounds. Cambridge Analytica also closed shop in 2018, following the scandal.

Nevertheless, that is all it is. The damage has already been done, and no fines can undo the damage that was done by the data breach. Therefore, it seems that these legislations can only punish an offence rather than prevent the violation from happening in the first place. Cambridge Analytica was not even among the world's largest data companies. According to Fortune Magazine, Amazon is the 13th largest company in the world by revenue size alone (Belanger, 2020). In terms of Internet services and retailing, it is the world's largest company. The company has grown considerably since its founding in the 1990s. Despite starting as an online books store, it is now in almost every industry. All that revolves around its ability to collect data and use it to its advantage.

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