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Why harnessing big data technology is a delicate balancing act

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There are new technologies that allow access to big data while preventing violations of personal data privacy.

It has been reported that some people are stealing data about tigers in Indian wildlife reserves, raising concerns over data abuse.

Wildlife data tracking used to rely on field observations recorded by experts. However, the lack of standard formats makes it difficult to process such data.

Fortunately, technological advancements in tracking systems, such as the global positioning system (GPS) and other digital sensor devices, have made large, continuous and high-frequency data sets available.

These new technologies have made data collection, storage, evaluation and visualization a lot more easy. However, they have also increased the risk of data misuse.

The importance of information sharing in the push for innovations has been recognized by many people.

For example, geospatial data is essential in wildlife research, particularly in the study of animal behavior, habits and demand. Such research is used in animal conservation and prevention of disease transmission.

But there is always a need to prevent big data abuse while extracting the benefits of data mining.

While some animal monitoring centers have fully opened access to their real-time geospatial data, others only provide a small fraction of their data for fear that the data could be misused.

To solve this problem, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with Open Algorithms (OPAL), which makes a broad array of data available for inspection and analysis without violating personal data privacy.

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