The 4 steps you should take before engaging with Social Media Data

Organizations are using big data to help consumers. The question is what steps organizations can take to avoid inadvertently harming consumers. In the event of legal action, an organization’s preparedness is a determining factor in how well the case will move forward.

In court matters, the electronically stored information is generally subject to the same preservation and discovery requirements as other relevant information. Preserving evidences or fulfilling a court production order for social media records raises technical challenges and evidentiary issues. As described by the Sedona report:

“Social media data is often hosted remotely with third parties, is dynamic and collaborative by nature, may include several different data types, and is often accessed through unique interfaces.”

In addition, social media sites may terminate an account(s) or delete account contents and mobile applications can shut down, or the mobile device itself can cause restrictions.

For these reasons, addressing the needs for defense in a legal action, with early engagement in an agreement for the preservation and collection of social media data is beneficial.

Social media analytics is a relatively new topic and may not always fit within existing laws and regulations. There are no universal agreements on how to regulate it and many countries are still at the stage of developing laws that protect their citizens’ private information from unethical use or misuse. Moreover, current legislation for data protection are not always comprehensive and sometimes do not work well together. In some other cases, these regulations have not been designed with social media analytics in mind.

Big data will continue grow in use, and will benefit growing areas such as education, health, social services, employment, finance, forensic investigation and many more. While big data analytics continue to provide benefits and opportunities to consumers, protecting consumers’ privacy has become a growing challenge. The privacy commissioner of each jurisdiction continues to monitor areas where big data practices could violate existing laws and brings enforcement actions where appropriate. In addition, raising awareness about the negative impact of big data practices on low-income and underserved population remains on the commissions’ primary list.

Since big data analytics can have significant consequences, organizations and legislation should work together to minimize the risks it presents. Therefore, organizations and companies that are already using or are considering engaging in big data analytics should:

  • Consider if their data sets are missing information from particular populations and if so, take necessary steps to address the problem.
  • Review their data sets and algorithms for hidden biases that may have unintended negative impact on certain groups.
  • Remember that discovered correlations in big data must be used with the risks of using those results in mind.
  • Consider fairness and ethical use of big data.

It may be worthwhile to have human supervision of data and algorithms when using big data tools to make important decisions.