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MPs to investigate big data



A parliamentary inquiry into the benefits and dangers of big data will consider submissions to be made by a deadline of next week.

MPs will examine what the government calls one of the “great technologies” - datasets so large and complex that traditional techniques are insufficient to analyse their content.

This autumn, the Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology will look at whether the government is “doing enough to ensure that UK entrepreneurs can benefit from the data revolution”.

However, the committee will also concentrate on “issues around data protection and privacy” – amid growing controversy over the use and sale of personal data.

Nicola Blackwood MP, its Conservative chairwoman, said big data sets show how computing power is growing at a “remarkable pace”, delivering enormous opportunities.

She added: “Many people enjoy the benefits of big data, like quicker, more personalised digital services, but are often concerned about the way their data is  to deliver this.

“This inquiry will be weighing up how we can open up opportunities in big data for entrepreneurs, while ensuring that consumers feel their private data is protected.

“Questions remain about how companies obtain consent for the use of personal data and whether the governance of our new information economy is keeping pace with the technology.”

Submissions focus

The committee has invited written submissions by 3 September focusing on:

  • the opportunities for big data, and the risks
  • whether the government has set out an appropriate path for the continued evolution of big data and the technologies required to support it
  • where gaps persist in the skills needed to take advantage of the opportunities and be protected from the risks, and how these gaps can be filled
  • how public understanding of the opportunities, implications and the skills required can be improved, and ‘informed consent’ secured
  • any further support needed from government to facilitate research and development on big data
  • what further support is needed from government to enable industry to take advantage of developments in this area.

The committee said big data was identified by ministers as a key opportunity in an Information Economy Strategy in 2013 – one of 11 sector-specific industrial strategies.

That strategy called for the UK to “take a lead in the global efforts to deal with the volume, velocity and variety of data created each day”.

The form for submissions can be found here.

Image by Camelia.boban, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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