Pollution was the negative product of an industrialized economy. Misuse of Big Data is the new pollution—the negative artifact of a digital economy. And it is occurring with increasing frequency. Strava, a fitness app, may have weakened the U.S. military by posting data that exposes geographical location of users, many of whom are military personnel. Facebook may have weakened the U.S. democracy by showing ads purchased by foreign manipulators to swing voters. And Equifax may have weakened the U.S. financial security by exposing a large database of consumer finances to hackers.
One common thread running through these notorious cases of recent privacy breaches is the potential harm arising from tracking people. Strava, Facebook, and Equifax created phenomenal databases of people’s behavior. Each of these platforms uses the data for many good purposes, but they also, unintentionally and sometimes negligently, expose the data to harmful uses.
Another, less noticed, common thread running through these cases of privacy breach is the social nature of the harm they caused. The injury from the exposed data was not always to the individual users being tracked and exposed. Rather, it is more akin to pollution: the injury arises from the aggregation of exposure and it is affecting many others.
Read more at Forbes