Sir – In his call to arms, Matt Leach from HACT (Housing Technology, July 2013) calls for a sector-wide approach to harness the benefits of big data by pooling resources, but he fails to address the issue of security and compliance. Tenant data is highly sensitive in nature and the sector has a responsibility to protect data on individuals. Housing providers seeking to share tenant data run the risk of contravening the Data Protection Act (DPA) and could incur a punitive fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office of up to £250,000.
Data management in the sector is woefully out-of-date and there is currently no information security standard along the lines of the ISO series to help share big data securely. Until the sector receives better guidance in the form of security regimes that govern both the collection and sharing of information, pooling big data will be little more than a pipe dream.
Yet it is possible to implement robust data security processes in anticipation of regulatory change. Some organisations, such as Viridian Housing, have already formalised data handling processes by conducting a security gap analysis, a data landscaping programme for data classification and a programme of works which is fed into a Target Operating Model (TOM). A formal Information Management System (IMS) is now planned which will align data management processes with DPA and international standards.
The jury is still out on whether organisations should seek a standalone system or an integrated solution, with many questioning the value in silo systems. With these and other questions remaining unanswered, there is a real need to nail down expectations within the sector.
The enthusiasm and possibility for change generated by big data should not be quashed, but we should be focusing on more effective security governance and the process it runs through before we start beating the big data drum.
Managing director, Auriga