BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    Big data: a normal accident waiting to happen?

    Nunan, Daniel and Di Domenico, M. (2017) Big data: a normal accident waiting to happen? Journal of Business Ethics 145 (3), pp. 481-491. ISSN 0167-4544.

    This is the latest version of this item.

    JBE AA.pdf - Author's Accepted Manuscript

    Download (239kB) | Preview


    Widespread commercial use of the internet has significantly increased the volume and scope of data being collected by organisations. ‘Big data’ has emerged as a term to encapsulate both the technical and commercial aspects of this growing data collection activity. To date, much of the discussion of big data has centred upon its transformational potential for innovation and efficiency, yet there has been less reflection on its wider implications beyond commercial value creation. This paper builds upon normal accident theory (NAT) to analyse the broader ethical implications of big data. It argues that the strategies behind big data require organisational systems that leave them vulnerable to normal accidents, that is to say some form of accident or disaster that is both unanticipated and inevitable. Whilst NAT has previously focused on the consequences of physical accidents, this paper suggests a new form of system accident that we label data accidents. These have distinct, less tangible and more complex characteristics and raise significant questions over the role of individual privacy in a ‘data society’. The paper concludes by considering the ways in which the risks of such data accidents might be managed or mitigated.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: The final publication is available at Springer via the link above.
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Business and Law > Birkbeck Business School
    Depositing User: Daniel Nunan
    Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2017 10:49
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:30

    Available Versions of this Item


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item