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Big data: privacy concerns stealing the headlines but IP issues of equal importance to businesses, says expert

Out-Law News | 12 Mar 2013 | 4:44 pm | 2 min. read

Businesses need to plan properly before exploring big data opportunities in order to give proper consideration to "fundamental" related legal issues, an expert has said.

A new survey by research firm Gartner has revealed that 42% of businesses have invested or will invest in big data technology within the next year. Gartner said that 2013 would be "the year of larger scale adoption of big data technologies", but the company's research vice president, Doug Laney, said most businesses have still to flesh out how to make big data work for their firms.

"Organisations have increased their understanding of what big data is and how it could transform the business in novel ways," Laney said. "The new key questions have shifted to 'What are the strategies and skills required?' and 'How can we measure and ensure our return on investment?'" "Most organisations are still in the early stages, and few have thought through an enterprise approach or realised the profound impact that big data will have on their infrastructure, organisations and industries."

However, information law specialist Marc Dautlich of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that companies must challenge themselves to address legal questions on intellectual property rights before developing big data analysis and technologies into business processes.

"It is really important that what companies think through are some fundamentals from a legal perspective," Dautlich said. "Intellectual property rights – who owns the input data companies are using in their analysis and who owns the output – in big data technologies are at least as important as data privacy issues which have perhaps been more widely reported. This is particularly relevant where there are third parties involved and is because big data applications may not always necessarily involve personal data."

Dautlich said, though, that businesses that use big data are able to glean a better quality of information to inform their decision making.

"Given the increase in the availability and now the usability of data that organisations increasingly gather, businesses are able to make business decisions informed by evidence rather than gut reaction," he said. "Big data is clearly a more rational way to do business than guess work and across many sectors the question is when and how they will best make use of the possibilities, rather than if. One area where we are currently seeing a lot of activity is in the retail sector – they are early adopters."

Earlier this month Tesco announced the launch of a new online TV and movie service for its Clubcard users. It said that it would sell Clubcard data - information about shoppers' in-store purchases - to advertisers in order that the service could be used for free. Advertisers would then be able serve personalised ads to Clubcard users based on their purchasing habits in order to target consumers who had bought rival products, whilst the information could also reveal whether particular advertising campaigns prompted shoppers into buying their products, according to a report by the Financial Times.

"Business and IT executives regularly say that information is one of their company's greatest assets," said Doug Laney of Gartner said. "Businesses are increasingly managing and deploying information more effectively than ever, but certainly not with the well-honed asset management discipline applied to their traditional material, financial or other intangible assets."

"The application of formal information valuation models will allow IT, information management and business leaders to make better-informed decisions on information management, enrichment, security, risks, purchasing, collection, usage, bartering, productisation and disposal," Laney said.