During a recent European Parliament meeting, Ana Gomes, a Portuguese member of the parliament said that while a thriving data-driven economy represents an opportunity for growth and employment, big data can also pose significant risks and challenges, particularly as regards fundamental rights, including privacy and data protection. “Some people actually pretend big data is just about statistics based on huge databases. But this is not traditional statistics because at the basis of these databases are individual data that need protection.”

The use of big data is creating lucrative opportunities. By 2017, the big data market is expected to reach €50 billion ($56 billion) and create 3.75 million new jobs.

Gomes is drafting an own-initiative report on the issue, which MEPs will vote on during a future plenary session.

The mass collection and analysis of data could make people like they are being constantly monitored, especially after revelations about NSA mass surveillance by Edward Snowden. There is also the risk of a security breach leading to sensitive data being disclosed or the danger of personal data being shared without the permission of the person involved. Last but not least, people might be refused services on the basis of data collected about them.

But data gathering is an important tool in national and international security, so the challenge is how this can be carried out with the full co-operation or at least acceptance of the public.

Gomes said the report will focus on transparency with regard to the value and use of collected data, management rules and the ways in which the data are collected and processed, and emphasized that individuals should have up to date meaningful right of access to information about the processing of their data.