Shining Light on Dark Data. What are the Risks and Opportunities involved?

What is Dark Data?

We’ve all heard of Big Data; these are the massive sets of unstructured data that are generated during the process of running a business. They are said to hold large volumes of information that can provide meaningful insights to the organizations that own them. Such insights can be both helpful and dangerous to anyone using them.

The portions of big data that are left unused are termed as Dark Data. Dark data volumes are said to be the majority share of all big data generated. This has the potential to create a lot of opportunities as well as risks; the International Data Center found that about 90% of all unstructured data is dark.

What causes dark data?

Being unaware of the content stored in unstructured data is what let’s dark data thrive. Without making use of big data to responsibly manage every byte, the organization misses opportunities and opens itself up to a lot of harmful repercussions.

Chief Data Officers (CDOs) have an important role to play in curbing such causes and creating organizational value for big data.

Dark Data Opportunities

Insights are generated by studying trends, sales graphs, call logs, security footage, profits, discounts, and multiple other source points for big data. Employing people who know how to make use of dark data can unlock several opportunities that you may not have known about:

The Tailor-Fit Experience

Customer’s buying patterns are very telling of what it is they desire. When you are finding it difficult to personalize the experience for your clients, you can extracts insights from dark data to understand their likes, dislikes, and preferences. It also shines a light on the kind of service they want, when they want it, and how happy they are presently.

Such data lets you tailor-fit the product or service experiences, which results in happier clients, and by extension, better business.


Studying trends allows you to forecast granular details about the market. You can identify the supply and demand needs for individual products or services and categorize them by seasons and demographics.

Forecasting is an important management tool that can greatly reduce losses, prevent wastage, and maximize efficiency. Dark data has the information to let you know what’s coming and helps you prepare for it.

Research & Development

Success rates, performance reviews, grievance alerts, etc., are great at highlighting improvement areas in your products. Such data points that appear tedious contain the exact information needed to make improvements.

Granular metrics help indicate where designers may have overlooked certain aspects or how the product must change to accommodate the new times. The information serves as the backbone to R&D, and dark data stores plenty of it.

Logistical Superiority

The management of tangible assets is a very major aspect of any business. Physical costs are associated with all organizations, even ones that offer intangible services.

Data on transportation, storage, and maintenance helps companies optimize their logistical needs. With the popularity of IoT solutions that generate volumes of big data, insights can enable your logistics to progress to the point of automation.

Customer Experience

B2C interactions generate some of the largest volumes of unstructured data. These are notorious for being overlooked and stashed away as dark data when, in fact, they contain a wealth of information on customer feedback.

Proper insights can generate satisfaction graphs that can track a client’s history with your brand. So the next time they need any assistance, you are on the same page with them; thereby creating a sense of continuity that would have been missing before.

Using dark data can present exciting new opportunities to help evolve your business, but they aren’t free from risks.

Dark Data Risks

The risks associated with dark data are more harmful than those that come with big data. The is because you won’t know about the levels of sensitivity you store.

This makes data breaches a much more harrowing experience, especially when you aren’t even aware of how it all happened. Either of these two factors can greatly impact your business:


The online world is connected incredibly well. Anything that is a hair-length away from the internet is at serious risk of being exposed. Businesses fight hackers every day and data breaches happen all over the world.

Having unstructured dark data makes leaves it unsecured, which creates an easy target for hackers to exploit. Not classifying data also increases the chances of internal leaks that can be far more embarrassing and detrimental to the organization.


Organizations are allowed to thrive in society on the trust that the sensitive information they store, is used securely and with a cause. The moment it violates the privacy of an individual, its future business falls at the mercy of the public’s trust.

The larger the company, the larger the dark data. And larger the dark data, the more are their chances of violating confidentiality rules. Allowing dark data to thrive without management opens the information to a plethora of leaks.

To this day, Facebook is trusted the least.

Managing Dark Data

Managing dark data is a continuous process that needs to be integrated into the usual business cycle.


It starts with collating big data and identifying the dark sets within. It is very important to be thorough in this first step.


Not all data; is useful therefore, you must do a cost-benefit analysis to determine if it is worth exploring. If it is, you store and use it, if not, you should dispose it off.


Security is of the highest importance here. Classifying and managing access is the best way to derive insights and use opportunities.


Merely deleting never works. Sensitive data must be disposed of through proper protocols that ensure permanent deletion.

Asset or Liability?

Dark Data is an asset. But only when it is managed well can you eliminate risks and make use of its opportunities. The moment you mismanage it, it becomes a liability.



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