Technically Speaking

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The Legal Considerations of Big Data

The focus of most companies utilizing or planning to utilize big data has so far been focused on the technologies and talents needed to process and analyze it. While these challenges remain at the forefront of big data discussions around the world, another aspect of collecting, analyzing, and using the products of big data needs to be acknowledged and addressed: the legal ramifications of big data. As you will see, the issues are complex and no definitive answers exist just yet. But knowing what these issues are can keep you out of trouble as the laws governing big data are debated, enacted, and enforced.

Know Where Your Data is Kept

Is your data stored in your country? Region? Hemisphere? You need to know this.

The U.S. and Europe lead the way in terms of legally defining and regulating big data. Other regions vary, generally addressing big data to the extent they regulate other privacy and human rights concerns. Yet even among European countries, privacy issues are dealt with considerably differently. Some nations take a strict view of protecting privacy (primarily Spain, France, and Germany), while others are more lenient (such as Great Britain and Scandinavia). The U.S. is most lenient of all.

What does this mean for the big data user? It means you need to know what country your data is stored in. It’s yet to be seen how laws and courts will deal with data that’s stored in another country but is needed for litigation in the U.S. Be aware of where your cloud service providers are located and where their datacenters are. Additionally, stay on top of vendors who sell out to other companies or otherwise transfer data to foreign soil.

Know Who is Keeping Charge of Your Data

Who has their hands on your data? What are the policies and regulations that establish when, where, how, and why they can claim ownership to it?

To what extent is your business responsible for mismanagement of your data while it’s in someone else’s hand, such as a cloud vendor, outside consultant, or other third party? Actually, the ownership of big data isn’t yet clearly defined by law. Do consumers retain the rights to their own personal information once it’s handed to a company with which they do business? Does the company now own the data? Does that ownership transfer when the data management is outsourced? These issues haven’t yet been clearly resolved by legislation, but they will be. Additionally, you need to watch how court cases play out after laws are established, which will offer insight into how these laws will be applied.

Licensing is another issue to watch. What if your business wants to sell or lease your big data to another party? Is it legal to buy big data from another source? Until ownership is clearly established, the answers to questions like these won’t be settled, either.

While companies around the world are doing astounding things with big data, these issues will unfold gradually, because governments are notoriously slower than business when it comes to understanding and managing new technologies like this. Though it’s wise to keep your ears and eyes out for such decisions, it is most likely that any cloud services, big data purchases, and other issues will be addressed in a way that businesses already engaged in contracts aren’t affected by new legislation.

The safest way to assure you maintain control of your big data is to use a reputable cloud service that operates in the UK or US. Bigstep is an award winning cloud provider in the UK with a Full Metal Cloud designed to manage big data. Try it out for free on the website today!

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