Big data is set to underpin new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus, according to research by MGI and McKinsey’s Business Technology Office. It estimates that a retailer using big data to the full has the potential to increase its operating margin by more than 60%.

In IDC’s worldwide Big Data technology and services forecast this year it predicted that the market will grow from $3.2 billion in 2010 to $16.9 billion in 2015. That’s an impressive compound annual growth rate of 40%.

However, big data poses a big challenge when it comes to data protection. Before businesses concern themselves with getting the value out of this data, they must ensure that its privacy is upheld. Given the reputation risk and the cost of security breaches, organisations cannot afford to overlook data privacy.

Moreover, in the age of big data a new, smarter approach to data privacy is required in order to secure data, no matter how much of it there is or where it is stored. It’s simply not good enough to apply antiquated data privacy solutions to the big data world. Policies related to privacy, security, intellectual property, and liability need to be modified up in a big data world to meet the changing needs of businesses.

Expertise is key

Businesses that are accumulating big data will need solutions in place to manage, analyse and interpret the data. In order to ensure that data is kept safe, businesses need to ensure that security professionals are brought into the planning stages as early as possible.

Their expertise is crucial to ensuring that the organisation is not left vulnerable to a serious data breach. This is particularly important when developing applications for mobile and tablet devices. Security professionals will need to provide advice on how the functionality of these apps should be defined and managed

For those organisations that have learned or experimented with spinning out Hadoop clusters, they need to ensure that they have adequate technology in place that masks the data stored in the cloud in order to keep it secure. Businesses also need to learn how to work more closely with developers that access their data. A smart and cautious approach is needed in these situations, with discipline around who is accessing data, and for what purpose.

Fighting for data privacy projects

Prioritising data security projects is of the utmost importance for organisations that want to avoid the pitfalls of a data breach or leak. Businesses need to put the time and effort in to map out their data privacy needs early on in order to make the case for prioritising data privacy projects. That means becoming more efficient, whether that is in relation to identifying sensitive data, developing rules, avoiding breaches, reducing victim notification costs and fines, or ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulations.

With the 21st century big data explosion in full swing, it’s no wonder that maintaining data privacy and security is top of the agenda for businesses and individuals worldwide. Overhauling and reinforcing privacy rules is a good place to start in putting the right level of pressure on organisations to ensure that they are in total control over valuable information, for the good of themselves and their customers.

In the year ahead businesses will also need to re-evaluate what steps they are taking to prevent data breaches in the first place and the likes of data masking technology will come into its own as a result. This enables organisations to implement more sophisticated tools and parameters that protect against data breaches.

One thing is clear: big data brings with it bigger responsibility for those organisations looking to make the most of the data within their grasp. The heat is certainly on organisations to make doubly sure that their data security measures are up to scratch while they delve into the depths of big data. The businesses that perfect the balance will be the ones to look out for in the coming months.