The BYTE-project presents a horizontal analysis in D4.1 of the case studies it has undertaken of positive and negative externalities in the use of big data. The practices involving big data show a wide variety in characteristics and maturity. Technical challenges often are the translation of societal externalities. 4 main categories of societal externalities were reviewed: economic externalities, social and ethical externalities, legal externalities and political externalities.
We have observed positive economical externalities (and social when the activity concerns social aims) in terms of innovation and in improvements in efficiency. This also leads to changes in business models and the appearance of new business models, which also includes ‘creative destruction’ of old models and can lead to dominance of and dependence on a few technological players. Further, despite these positive economic impacts the role of public funding proves to be important into kick-starting a data economy.
The risk for negative impacts on important social values could also be observed. In most case studies (potential) negative effects on privacy were reported, while several case studies mentioned the risk for equality and new risks for discriminatory practices. Trust was often also an issue, where the risk for manipulation and exploitation leads to distrust and withdrawal. This points to the need for developing practices, including but not limited to legal frameworks, which can assure a proper balance and thereby establish trust. In this respect both data protection and intellectual property rights are important legal frameworks, but often acting as a barrier to big data. In general both frameworks were considered outdated and too restrictive for big data. Political externalities concerned mostly political economics. Public sector or non-profit organisations fear rent-seeking behaviour or capture by the private sector. Further the fear to lose control to actors abroad, and in particular US-based actors, was present widely and sometimes translates in protectionist attitudes and requirements to store data within national territories.
The overall picture shows positive benefits but also the potential to negatively affect other important social or ethical values. Important is that big data is not just a technical issue but has an impact on organisational borders and the ‘business ecology’ in general. This leads to uncertainty and conflict in a range of areas, translating in distrust and reluctance by all sorts of actors and conflicts on political and legal level. Organisational borders need to be redefined or redrawn, while also social norms and legal frameworks need to be clarified again based on a proper balancing of all interests.