Privacy in the Age of Big Data

Today, Audrey Watters of O’Reilly Radar posts her interview with Terence Craig, co-author of Privacy and Big Data, about the impacts of big data on personal privacy.  Craig makes the claim that data transparency will eventually trump anonymity, meaning that our lives will be less private in the future as we all take advantage of the technologies that come from the new information age.

Here’s a quick Q&A between Watters and Craig on the subject of privacy:

Assuming that data can’t be anonymized and companies don’t have malicious plans for our personal data, what expectations can we have for privacy?

Terence Craig: We’ve moved back to our evolutionary default for privacy, which is essentially none. Hunter-gatherers didn’t have privacy. In small rural villages with shared huts between multi-generational families, privacy just wasn’t really available there.

The question is how do we address a society that mirrors our beginnings, but comes with one big difference? Before, anyone who knew the intimate details of our lives were people we had met physically, and they were often related to us. But now the geographical boundary has been erased by the Internet, so what does that mean? And how are we as a society going to evolve to deal with that?

With that in mind, I’ve given up on the idea of digital privacy as a goal. I think you have to if you want to reap the rewards of being a full participant in a digitized society. What’s important is for us to make sure we have transparency from the large institutions that are aggregating data. We need these institutions to understand what they’re doing with data and to share that with people so we, in aggregate, can agree whether or not this is a legitimate use of our data. We need transparency so that we — consumers, citizens — can start to control the process. Transparency is what’s important. The idea that we can keep the data hidden or private, well … that horse has left the stable.

You can read more of Watters’ interview here

 

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I currently serve as Vice President of Decision Science at CenturyLink. I've previously served as a leader in the Advanced Risk & Compliance Analytics (ARCA) practice at PwC and as Director of Data Science & Analytics Engineering at Areté Associates. I've served the public as Chair of the Thousand Oaks, CA Planning Commission. I have been married to my wife Stephanie since 1993, and we have a wonderful daughter Monroe. Learn more about me »

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