Which is more important: research, or privacy? I will always opt for privacy. Research can wait. Big data research scares me because I’ve seen from the inside how so many people either misunderstand or blatantly disregard privacy. Sometimes it’s because they think the people will never find out, sometimes because they think nobody would be interested in matching up the data to identify people. And sometimes they just want nothing standing in the way of their next big research project (which will move them up to the next job promotion…). Not all researchers are doing it for the benefit of humanity.
Equally scary is the lack of public debate about privacy and research. Just like recent decisions in Australia’s parliament with regard to internet privacy, research ethics can easily slip under the radar and the common person’s privacy is whittled away.