Data integrity, data manipulation, and privacy

In a new National Academies of Science report on the emerging bioeconomy, Safeguarding the Bioeconomy, the authors did something a bit unexpected: they called out cybersecurity and sensitive data protections and practices as significant co-factors for economic success. In the past, these same data security and privacy factors may well have been discussed as obstacles to progress. But now, the authors warn that a “concerted effort is needed to safeguard the potential of the bioeconomy and minimize associated risks.” 

Among the specific risks the authors highlighted were inadequate cybersecurity practices and protections relative to intrusion, exfiltration, and data and systems manipulation. In their recommendations, the authors also discussed the necessity of proper handling of sensitive data sets. “The sector is reliant on open source software, large and potentially sensitive data sets, and Internet communications.” 

This report marks an improved and hopeful starting point for the extensive data privacy and knowledge governance analysis that will need to take place across the various fields of scientific research. The report’s recommendations regarding the importance of both preventing data manipulation, and having proper systems in place to ensure data integrity deserves additional thought and work by privacy scholars and experts.

The idea of data integrity — particularly accuracy — has been entwined in privacy thought for a very long time. But this report brings some new variations and expansions of these ideas forward, and for this reason, it makes for interesting and important reading. 

Data manipulation is not often conceived of as a “privacy” issue, with the notable exception of criminal data manipulation related to forms of identity theft. Data integrity has received more work, but still — for privacy experts reading this report, it becomes clear that data manipulation and integrity are embedded in a continuum, and it is well worth exploring that continuum with a privacy and knowledge governance lens.

–Pam Dixon

Related Documents

Safeguarding the Bioeconomy, NAS

WPF Urges National Institutes of Health to expand privacy guidance for researchers