As much as I see the benefits for big data and machine learning to help corporations, these technologies, like any technology, have a dark side to them if used incorrectly. Often times the movie, Minority Report comes up as a model of the darker side. People being accused of precrimes, tried and convicted before they ever do anything. In essence, taking a probability and proclaiming it a fact. When applied to society in reality, this has some bad implications. However, there is a solution.
I really do think that machine learning and big data are tools that can help us. We can manage street traffic better, help understand crime and staff police accordingly, or maybe even use it to track the flu better. There are all great ideas for helping society. But what makes big data and machine learning something that can go dark is who controls it. Data in the public sector is often controlled by the government for the government. We the people, who task the government, often do not get such access to the data. But with open source tools in machine learning and big data, government actually would be better served if it did hand over the data to people, not companies but make it available to anyone who is a part of that country, state, county or town.
This would help people understand what their data looks like and how it is being used, a big part of the issue people have with data systems is that they have no idea what their information is being used for. This might also help raise awareness as to what data people give up and this might lead to better personal data management.
When it comes to companies, transparency is always a good policy. What you use big data for, will help you position yourself. A company that creates products for consumers that helps consumers is far better positioned than a company that just uses the data for their own profit. One is using data to benefit consumers; the other is taking data (as is often the case) and uses it for self-interest gains. Most people will have a problem with the latter.
Data freedom is something that will help everyone, not just companies. The more people have access to the tools around machine learning and big data, the better we all will be. People will get a better understanding of the data they have and what it means. I hope that we can keep our collective heads level and use data for benefit, not self-interested gains only.