Big Data: Security, Privacy and Ethics

This weeks reading material explored security, privacy and ethical issues surrounding people’s online data.

Two articles discussed the issue of potential employers requiring candidates login to their Facebook profiles or provide the password. I agree that requesting someone’s Facebook password crosses the lines of privacy violation because with a password, someone can see personal communication that is not available to the public. It’s nice to know that Facebook is taking a stance against employers that do this, as explained in’s article Can Employers Legally Ask You for Your Facebook Password When You Apply for a Job?  It is their responsibility  to protect user information and privacy and they already skate the line on this issue when it comes to using user information for advertisement targeting.

That being said, we’ve been hearing for a long time about the practice of employers making people login to their social profiles and of social networks using user information for marketing. With this knowledge, people should be cautious not to post anything online that they wouldn’t want everyone to see. It’s common sense, really. My company recently required everyone attend a HR education webinar on Social Media etiquette and your privacy rights as they relate to your professional life. The webinar reiterated a lot of the things the articles from the reading said, so it was nice to know that my company opposes asking potential and current employees for access to their social media profiles. I thought it was also a good idea to educate people on what is and isn’t acceptable social-media etiquette so that every employee has a clear understanding of what is expected since this is such new territory.

As far as Instagram repurposing user pictures for advertisements, I’m not surprised. First of all, because Facebook bought Instagram. Secondly, people can’t think that services like this are offered to them for nothing in exchange. That’s not how business works. If the service is free, the company has to be making an income somehow. It just emphasizes the point to only post what you wouldn’t have a problem with the whole world seeing on the internet.

Another interesting perspective on user data is from health-related data. I do think that we should use the technology to help patients stay up-to-date with their health. Empowering patients to be proactive about their health is essential to improve their conditions in many cases. However, as explained in WSJ’s Health Gadgets Test Privacy-Law Limits, the software and tools to interpret the data to patients in a way they can understand is not yet developed. Having worked in the healthcare communication industry, specifically for technologic devices, I agree that patients should not be provided raw data without context or explanation because most of them don’t know how to interpret it. Not to imply they are dumb. The fact is the majority of them do not trained to evaluate the data. It is the responsibility of healthcare providers and organizations to use technology to help educate, care for and make healthcare more accessible to their patients.

The ability to collect real-time data about these conditions is just expediting the process of scientific and medical research that normally involves a lot of funding and official studies and analysis. The automated collection allows us to collect far greater amounts of data, faster, and cuts down the analysis time drastically. I am interested to see how this helps progress medical knowledge and treatment.


  1. Would you have a problem with a potential employer looking at your Facebook?
  2. Have you ever been asked to share your Facebook with an interviewer or employer? (I haven’t… but my company is very against that practice.)
  3. How much access do you think patients should have to their data?

3 thoughts on “Big Data: Security, Privacy and Ethics

  1. I have not been asked to share my Facebook information. There’s no indication that my current company would ask its employees to do so, but as a media company it does require reporters not to post their personal opinions/ ideas on most issues. This requirement was in place before the age of social media. Reporters were not allowed to voice their stance on political or controversial issues.
    Patients should have total access to all of their data. It should be provided to them in layman’s terms so they have a clear understanding of the information.

  2. I would have a problem with a company asking to see my private Facebook page. Even though there’s nothing I’m particularly ashamed of in that realm, I do think there’s a line between a public and private life. In my line of business however, having social media skills in necessary so I do keep public social media accounts that I would be more than willing to share to demonstrate that i know how to effectively use social media.

    When it comes to medical records, I agree that patients can’t always interpret it correctly. They might see a blood pressure reading or a lab test and be fearful that the numbers they are seeing are dangerous when they aren’t — or the other way around. That said, even if they can’t interpret it, they should still be able to access it. They deserve to know everything about themselves that the doctor knows. Then they can choose to find someone to translate it if they see fit.

  3. I think my social media is fair game… its out there on the internet, so it is a perception of me… if it isn’t accurate, who’s fault is that? I’m the owner- if your house is in shambles and you drive a clunky car, isn’t it the same thing? All of the attributes you put out in the world are there for the purpose of showing of your personality and your persona. Use them wisely is my own caution!

    I think patients should be able to see whatever data they’d like… as long as it’s their data. Doctor notes should be included in that- I always wonder what attributes they put in the notes, and if there are any major things they forget. You can never be to careful.

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