Will the Ashley Madison hack and law suits spell the end to Big Data as we know it?

The recent edition of New Scientist has a very thought provoking article (After Ashley Madison: How to regain control of your online data) looking at the near future of personal data and wonders if organisations are going to start avoiding holding large amounts of personal data.

  • I do not want to discourage people reading this well researched and interesting article, so I will just highlight the key points:
  • There is a good chance Ashley Madison will be sued, and that it will lose the case, and that the damages will be so big it will go out of business.
  • Ashley Madison had personal data, it did not adequately protect it (but promised its customers it would), and many of those customers have suffered harm (including broken marriages, jobs lost, and apparently suicides).
  • Most companies holding data about users and customers are not adequately protecting it, and it may not be possible to adequately protect central repositories of data. Eric Snowden illustrated that even the US National Security Agency could not adequately protect information.
  • Consequently, the financial risk of holding large datasets of personal information may become too large for organisations such as Microsoft and Google to risk – which would be a game changer for the future of personal data and big data in the way it is currently foreseen.
  • The New Scientist suggests that one possible alternative is represented by systems like Enigma, which store people’s information in small pieces in many locations and the user has to provide a key for it to be used.
  • If systems like Enigma became the norm then it is likely that individuals would have much more power over their data, and organisations would have less.

Will it happen? I don’t know – if I did know I wouldn’t be blogging about it, I’d be investing.

I am interested to hear your thoughts? And, please do read the full article in New Scientist.