Big Data is everywhere. According to IBM, 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone, equivalent to 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day. Across almost every sector, Big Data is transforming the way organisations operate, and many are starting to unlock its value and have even come to rely on it. One of the challenges firms face however, is growing concern amongst internet users over data privacy. As users become aware of privacy tools and how to use them, a significant number are already opting for data invisibility on the web. In a recent survey of about 11,000 people across 11 countries, 68% said they would use a ‘do-not-track’ feature if it was easily available on a search engine, while just 14% said they believe internet companies are honest about their use of personal data. Research by analysts at Ovum also warns that firms exploiting the abundance of personal data on the web to accrue profits may soon run into problems, as well as more government regulation further down the line. Those that rely on the collection of personal data by placing undeclared cookies on a web user’s browser, a process sometimes referred to as ‘data fracking’, face legal action under the cookie law introduced in Europe and the UK recently. Better engagement The negative headlines surrounding data privacy could certainly threaten firms whose business model relies on the collection of personal data for targeted advertising, among other things. So, from a communications perspective, how can they address this issue? As more companies come to incorporate Big Data into their business models, they will need to be clear with their customers about how it will affect them, or risk the threat of a privacy backlash. As CIO UK highlighted, there are a number of ways in which companies involved with data collection can alter their approach. Ovum advocates that companies offer greater incentives for customers to give up personal information. For example, Amazon uses personal information to improve customer service and build a much closer relationship with its customers. In addition, an effective communications strategy will tackle concerns about privacy head on, and educate customers on what exactly is being done to protect the privacy of their data. Only by being open and honest can firms better engage with their customers and avoid the threat of further regulation. Naturally, when so much of what we do as individuals and as businesses takes place on the internet, we need to accept that some of the information we share is no longer ours alone. That being said, users need to be made aware of the benefits that Big Data can have for them and companies need to be able to communicate these effectively, making it clear they have nothing to hide.