The big data dilemma

24 July 2015

The Science and Technology Committee inquiry examines the opportunities and risks of 'big data'. The inquiry looks at whether the Government is doing enough to ensure that UK entrepreneurs can benefit from the data revolution, while looking at issues around data protection and privacy.

It will also follow up on the previous Committee’s Responsible Use of Data (PDF 471 .81 KB) report in 2014.

Chair's comments

Nicola Blackwood MP, Chair of the Science & Technology Committee:

"Growth in computing power continues at a remarkable pace, bringing enormous economic and social opportunities as new public and private services are developed using 'big data' sets.  But there are also growing public concerns about the collection, use and sale of personal data. 

Many people enjoy the benefits of big data, like quicker, more personalised digital services, but are often concerned about the way their data is used to deliver this.

This inquiry will be weighing up how we can open up opportunities in big data for entrepreneurs, while ensuring that consumers feel their private data is protected. Questions remain about how companies obtain consent for the use of personal data and whether the governance of our new information economy is keeping pace with the technology."


"Big Data"(PDF 956 KB) — one of the 'great technologies' identified by Government — refers to ways of handling data sets so large, dynamic and complex that traditional techniques are insufficient to analyse their content. It was an opportunity highlighted in the 2013 Information Economy Strategy (PDF 1.10 MB) (one of 11 sector-specific Industrial Strategies). That Strategy highlighted the importance of "a highly skilled digital workforce" and "digital infrastructure (both physical and regulatory) and the framework for cyber security and privacy necessary to support growth, innovation and excellence", for the UK "to take a lead in the global efforts to deal with the volume, velocity and variety of data created each day".

Written submissions

The Committee would welcome written submissions by Thursday 3 September 2015 on:

  • the opportunities for big data, and the risks
  • whether the Government has set out an appropriate and up-to-date path for the continued evolution of big data and the technologies required to support it
  • where gaps persist in the skills needed to take advantage of the opportunities, and be protected from the risks, and how these gaps can be filled
  • how public understanding of the opportunities, implications and the skills required can be improved, and ‘informed consent’ secured
  • any further support needed from Government to facilitate R&D on big data, including to secure the required capital investment in big data research facilities and for their ongoing operation.

Send a written submission

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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