Tech Trend #9- Digital Ethics and Privacy

Jul 23 2019

Scott Shadley

We wrap up our series on corporate data management and digital transformation tech trends with digital ethics and privacy. Increasingly, these issues are at the forefront of consumer use concerns. People are starting to notice how their data is being used, particularly in relation to advertising. You do a google search for a new set of golf clubs and next thing you know, checking your Facebook page, there the clubs are, off to the side as an ad. Now check the weather and there is the same ad on the weather page. You know those ads are directly from your recent search. And, while people may have always known, on an intellectual level, that data was being captured, the flagrant use of a search two minutes prior to seeing a directed ad is making some people a bit paranoid about the Big Brother aspect of data collection and use. Even Gartner is starting to lecture companies on the importance of building trust with their consumer base.

Privacy is a particular concern in the healthcare industry. Current systems do not have adequate security and there have been numerous instances of medical record breaches, exposing the personal records of millions of patients. Four factors contribute to the problem- lack of industry standards, data is stored in massive data silos with inherent security risks, it is often not clear who has access to the data, and there is incentive to sell medical data for huge profit.

Traffic and retail cameras track cars and people resulting in useful data for reconfiguring access to parking lots and determine the best times for road repairs or where bottlenecks are most problematic. However, those same cameras are used to see all the residents of a small community that accessed a particular restaurant on a certain day to try to determine which of them left without paying. That may too be a good use of the data collected, but at what point is it ethically unsound. Should we track people that look scary to us, that new family that just moved into town, or the person who is always defiant at the City Council meetings? And, what happens to the data and how long is it stored?

Is Alexa listening? Well, of course, Alexa is “listening”- ask a question and, hopefully, you will get a relevant answer. But, is Alexa listening, as in tracking your conversations, your routine, listening preferences, habits? Did you know that the questions you ask Alexa are retained? What about identity theft? Could a hacker take those recordings, rearrange the words, and use that information to access bank accounts or other protected records?

Moving computational resources into storage devices not only shortens the access path to data, thus lowering latency, but also alleviates the bottleneck at the I/O ports. When it comes to petabyte scale datasets, keeping everything on the storage side makes a big difference- and has the advantage of better security. Localized data is more secure than cloud storage of the same data. We are doing our part on the privacy ethics side of digital transformation. Alexa- yes, I see the fruit- order a pizza, I’m starving!

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