Big Data: Positive or Negative on Society?

Following week two’s lecture on Big Data, I was confronted by the increasing analysis of statistical and numerical data to track aspects of every day life. As this type of data is being integrated further into society, I thought it was important to consider what this growing invasion of privacy would have on modern society. In order to form a conclusion on the matter, it is imperative to look into the benefits and limitations Big Data holds within today’s culture.

Big Data involves the collection and analysis of information from a variety of sources, and if used correctly may provide ongoing benefits for society. The data collected is limitless and has endless possibilities for it’s end-use. Rita Raley (2013) suggests, “data has been figured as a “gold mine”…“the new oil of the Internet and the new currency of the digital world,” the engine driving our latest speculative bubble”. Big Data is a large factor that contributes to the daily function of society. It is this factor that allows Big Data to be used for company predictions, lifestyle statistics, and climate records. We can already see many companies relying on the statistics produced from Big Data to improve their competitive edge within the business sphere.

For example, the research firm IDC has used Big Data in order to inform and enhance their methods of assistance to other companies. They use statistics to advise business executives to not rely on gut instincts, but instead use basic facts to give insight on all aspects of their company; from business processes to decisions on fundamental operations. Big Data enables security, privacy and government policies easier to keep track on and edit. Finally Big Data provides companies with valuable information; enhancing decision-making processes, respective of possible investment opportunities, and other tools for competition in the marketplace. Big Data’s affect in society can be seen in the table below:


Retrospectively, in the process of acquiring information for businesses, medical purposes and daily matters; personal data and privacy is disabled. Individual’s research on Google, Facebook, and search records will be documented and analysed. Riccardo de Marchi Trevisan draws attention to the way “each of us leave numerous data tracks, a disorganized set of records about ourselves” (Marchi Trevisan, 2013). With the access to a million records combined together, our personal material becomes Big Data. From here, it is important to consider the possible consequences this level of insight into individuals will have on the shaping of modern society. The documents will give Big Data the power to “dictate the market, the behavior of society, and the way we are targeted with information” (Marchi Trevisan, 2013). This train of events poses threats of a collective “brain wash” effect occurring, in which personalized marketing and advertising is needed in order to identify relationships and connections.

Even with the risk of losing complete privacy, it is hard to be completely against big data. When information is collected, and unidentified, the feeling of a lack of privacy disappears; allowing the statistics to be used for beneficial purposes. For example, the information may be used to inform medical research with the possibility for positive conclusions to be drawn. This in turn will allow for the development of a healthier nation. Overall, Big Data is a significant resource enabling ongoing improvements within society based on collectively understanding human behaviors.



Raley, R, 2013, Dataveillance and countervailance, Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, pp. 131-139


IDC, 2012, About IDC, IDC, viewed 20 August 2014, <>

Online Articles:

Marchi Trevisan, R, 2013, Identifying the Risks and Benefits of a Big Data World, Forumone, viewed 20 August 2013, <>

Cho Suh, I, 2014, Five Ways Companies Can Compete Using Big Data and Analytics, IBM – Forbes, viewed 20 August 2014, <>

Sage, 2012, Big Data: Benefit to Society, or Drowning in a Data Deluge?, Social Science Space, viewed 20 August 2014, <>

McLennan, C, 2013, Perceived Benefits of Big Data Technologies for Business, znet, viewed 21 August 2014, <>



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