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Big Data, Double Edged Sword
Hong Young-ki  |  ghddudrl@hanyang.ac.kr
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[327호] 승인 2015.09.01  
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In June of 2015, an unprecedented disease called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome(MERS) struck Korea, leading to the death of 36 people and economic losses of 10 trillion won. It was important to detect the spread of the infection to stop the disease, so some experts used big data as a means to figure out the fundamental cause and the reason for the rapid spread of MERS.

 Big data refers to a set of techniques and technologies that require new forms of integration to uncover hidden patterns from large datasets. However, when dealing with big data, invasion of privacy and the filter bubble phenomenon are issues to be considered.


Appearance of Big Data

 People started to use the word “big data” when iPhone was first released. As the technology of smart phones advanced, people could use Social Network Service(SNS) wherever and whenever they want. As tremendous amount of data can be collected in a second, The technique of analyzing the data has become important. According to Wikibon, a community of experts on technology and business systems, the market value of big data was estimated at 321 trillion dollars on 2015, and it is projected to reach 534 trillion dollars by 2017.

 Social network analysis and group analysis are two ways to use big data. Social network analysis is done by collecting the data of users’ social network and by measuring the users’ reputation and influence. For instance, Barak Obama, the President of the United States, created a campaign regarding individual preferences after analyzing voters’ SNS.

 The group analysis is done by merging similar characteristics of individuals and by excavating the similar groups based on their characteristics. Amazon, the Internet shopping mall, collects big data from users and even recommends products based on the information.


Positive Influence of Big Data

 Big data can help people predict the future. For example, Google Flu Trends, a web service operated by Google, provides estimates of influenza activity by using big data so that people can make accurate predictions on infections and also track down those suffering from symptoms of the flu. This service can predict the onset of the flu one to two weeks faster than United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Public Health Institute of the United States.

 As the usage of big data becomes widespread, users are able to save time searching for information and use related websites more. For instance, Auction, an online shopping mall website, provides a service called “My Style.” The website recommends customized products and options to users after analyzing users’ previously recorded information. It specifically calculates the number of clicks and search records for each user. This helps users spend less time on looking for what they want. Watcha, a service that recommends movies, also provides user friendly information. Users evaluate the movies they watched which are then analyzed by Watcha, and the service automatically recommends titles that the user might like. “When I use the Watcha service, I feel comfortable because it recommends movies that I typically enjoy. I can reduce the time I usually spend when looking for movies that I want to watch,” said Lee eun-ji, a Senior from the Department of Business and Management at Hanyang University(HYU).

Concerns Arising from Big Data

 Questions about personal privacy and data tracking have been increasing in recent years with the rise of online systems that collect vast amounts of data. This raises concerns over personal information leaks as people have to enter their private data when joining websites. In 2012, there was a major announcement by Google regarding their privacy policy in which personal information of not only a user’s name, age but also everything else users had done online while using with their

 Google ID would be collected. This consolidation allows Google to target what users do on Google. As opposition against this new policy has come from all over the world, Google was fined by the government of France on 2013, which is the fourth time fined by a national government.

Moreover, the acquired information by Google could be provided to advertisers. Companies hand over the users’ information to advertisers so that they could effectively target users with interests related to their products.


There are significant dangers when such digital advertising tools are used for political reasons. Most politicians use data to track voting patterns and to better publicize a candidate. Candidates can create advertisements and fundraising targeted at particular people based on specific categories.


 Website operators are the ones that manage and control big data as well as its usage. “As the websites are in control of massive data of the users, they can distort the truth as much as they want. For example, customers’ testimonials regarding the quality of the goods that some companies provide could be falsified,” said Kim Sang-wook, a Professor of Computer Engineering at HYU.

 Another problem with big data is the filter bubble phenomenon which arises when a website filters the data of information given to users. When a website analyzes the individual patterns of portal service usage, users are given customized limited results according to their search history. This means that users are locked within their own browsing history and online activities. Although the filter bubble can make the Internet aseemingly more comfortable place with customized services, it can severely limit broader information. This is because users might only find websites or media that they are accustomed to seeing instead of alternative choices.


Change in Perception

 Along with the influence of big data, most people do not recognize its side effects, and they instead focus solely on its advantages. According to a survey conducted by The Hanyang Journal involving 300 Hanyangians, 88 percent of the respondents answered that they thought big data was being used in a positive way. This reveals that most students are not aware of the opposite or even dangerous side of big data. “As big data has both advantages and disadvantages, the advancement of technology that can protect users’ IDs and information from being hacked is in dire need. Also, strict laws should be enacted as the danger of hackers stealing personal data has been increaing greatly,” said Professor Kim.

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