Big Data

Big Data is a term WPF uses to describe very large datasets and the technologies and practices of handling those datasets. Typically, Big Data datasets are so large that traditional database systems are not able to handle or analyze them.

Sources for Big Data are many and varied. They include web data, sensors, cell towers, census data and other data from the government, social media, transactional data, and a variety of other data collection systems.

We have seen a tendency to use the term Big Data as a loosely defined stand-in for a number of privacy issues that sound the same, but aren’t. For example, Big Data and Data Brokers are sometimes used together. The two ideas are distinct and different, and it is crucial for public policy and discussion that the two are not conflated as being the same thing or even a similar thing. It is possible to work with Big Data and never be a Data Broker.

Large datasets are intriguing to the World Privacy Forum, and our research on large datasets resulting from sensors and ID cards in Asia helped us understand and explore the issue in-depth. Large datasets sometimes present privacy challenges, but sometimes they do not. Much depends on how the dataflows are collected, managed, stored, and so forth. Understanding these differences and knowing when and where the challenges are is going to be important going forward in this rapidly evolving space.

 

Debating the future of privacy

Arizona School of Law — Pam Dixon participated as a discussant and contributor to the Arizona School of Law’s private workshop on the topic of the future of privacy. Key areas of discussion included the European Union’s Right to be Forgotten proposal, consent and health privacy, and Do Not Track.

WPF on CES Panel on Facial Recognition

Facial recognition — Pam Dixon spoke at a CES panel on privacy issues in facial recognition technologies as part of the Leaders in Technology program at CES. The panel was moderated by Tony Romm of Politico and included FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen and Harley Geiger, legislative counsel for Representative Zoe Lofgren. Dixon spoke on the need for increased work on consumer options in a “sensor rich environment where there is no option to opt out by walking out.” Referenced in the panel was WPF’s report on digital signage and facial recognition, The One-Way Mirror Society.

FTC drops Google WiFi case

Online privacy — The FTC sent a letter to Google today expressing concern about the company’s privacy practices, but at the same time, the FTC informed Google that it was dropping its investigation of the Street View WiFi case. The FTC wrote: “FTC staff has concerns about the internal policies and procedures that gave rise to this data collection. … the company did not discover that it had been collecting payload data until it responded to a request for information from a data protection authority.” The FTC told Google it should develop and implement procedures to properly collect, dispose of, and maintain information.

Good privacy decision in Amazon v. Lay fight to keep customer information private

Resource | case file — Amazon.com filed a lawsuit in April to fight the North Carolina Department of Revenue’s request for detailed information on Amazon.com customers. The North Carolina tax department requested Amazon.com to hand over “all information for all sales to customers with a North Carolina shipping address” between 2003 to 2010. In the decision, Seattle, Washington U.S. District Court Judge Marsha J. Pechman wrote, “Citizens are entitled to receive information and ideas through books, films, and other expressive materials anonymously.” She also stated that “The fear of government tracking and censoring one\’s reading, listening, and viewing choices chills the exercise of First Amendment rights.” This is an important decision for privacy rights, and online privacy in particular.