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"Big data" brings about privacy concern

By Xie Fang | 2013-08-29 | Hits:
Chinese Social Sciences Today
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger
On December 11th and 12th, one of the foremost authorities on “big data”, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger visited Beijing at the invitation of the IT media company China-Cloud, among others, to deliver several lectures and meet with Chinese academics and industry representatives. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is the Oll’s Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute, and the author of Big Data: A Revolution that will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think and Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age.
In recent years, both in the IT industry and in the fields of the humanities and social sciences, people have been following the development of "big data" closely. Chen Wenguang, deputy director of the department of computer science and technology at Tsinghua University commented that while there is no doubt that the big data exerts a significant influence, each expert sticks to his or her argument about what exactly big data exactly is and what the difference and connection between big data and former data analysis technologies is. He added that Mayer-Schönberger’s thinks that big data should not be taken to mean a random sample of data but all data; that it stresses complexity over accuracy, and its emphasis is elucidating correlativity rather than clear-cut cause-and-effect relationships.
In his research and publications on networks, Albert-László Barabási, distinguished professor of physics and director of the Center for Complex Network Research at Northeastern University, has quantified and analyzed social and behavioral data to make previously unmeasurable human behaviors analyzable, describable, quantifiable, and even predictable and controllable. In light of his research on how expanding and intersecting databases will make individual behavior more predictable, more and more people have expressed concern about the personal privacy crisis brought about by "big data". However, Xie Wen, former general manager of Yahoo China, said that China’s current data usage per capita is too small for big data to infringe on people’s privacy.
Huai Jinpeng, president of Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, once suggested that the value of "big data" should be further explored through technology. Unfortunately, even in Silicon Valley and similar world leading areas of science and technology innovation, there are no companies exclusively devoted to "big data". Tian Shuoning, president of CBC Capital, pointed out that China was always a student during technology revolutions in modern history. However, in the emerging revolution in cloud computing and "big data", China has significantly narrowed the distance between itself and the rest of the world, and even stands to take a leading role in innovation and implementation in certain areas. As long as we can embrace the age of "big data" with an open mind and innovative courage, Tian concluded, we can grasp the opportunity bequeathed to China by history.
The Chinese version appeared in Chinese Social Sciences Today, No. 392, Dec. 14, 2012
                                                                                                                            Translated by Zhang Mengying