Privacy Perils of Big Data Integration: A New Task for CDOs?

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    My daughter hates it when I post anything about her on Facebook. We’re talking full-on rant, with her most serious angry face and everything.

    So I talk about my preschool son. He doesn’t know yet why Mommy’s friends are laughing.

    But her very strong reaction, which has only grown as she has, makes me think we’re headed for a huge backlash over privacy. Already, one generation has learned the hard lessons of the drunk selfies and social media; I suspect the next one will be much less trusting, particularly with grandma and all their senior relatives online.

    It may be sooner than I thought, however. Protesters are organizing to stop Oakland and the Port of Oakland from building a surveillance hub called the Domain Awareness Center.

    If you’re in California, you’ve no doubt heard about it, but to explain for the rest of us, it will collect data streams, including video, from different sources and analyze it to look for… whatever it is police are looking for. I am unsure whether it could do face recognition or not, but about a year ago, I sat through a demo that pulled up cars and faces with alarming clarity, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and bet that it can.

    At any rate, it’s obvious to see why privacy advocates, and really humanity, might worry that this will go beyond your basic camera surveillance. It’s also worth noting that the photo byline and summary refer to this data hub as an integration system — and I suppose, in a way, it is a system for integrating Big Data.

    But this is not what you would call a Big Data success story. No, as NPR explains, it’s a significant protest by computer-savvy people interested in protecting privacy and the evolution of a nationwide surveillance grid.

    I can’t even believe I’m typing those words, as it seems so Big Brother. But we all know — regardless of intentions — that is where this is headed. Once you’ve gained access, it’s just too tempting to sneak a peek.

    Protesters don’t seem to be asking for the moon, here. The article quotes a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, who says there should be limits, including a privacy policy, before Skynet, I mean the Domain Awareness Center, comes online.

    That seems reasonable to me, and I’m not alone. In fact, protecting privacy and public or customer trust should be a top concern for any newly appointed chief data officers, argues Philip Howard, Bloor research director of data management.

    “The problem is that if the CDO does not have some control over these trust issues then he or she will effectively have responsibility without authority,” Howard writes. “It seems to me that the CDO must have the authority to ensure that programmes are in place to ensure that data is trusted. In particular, I think there is a case for the CDO to have authority over data governance and the CDO will need to liaise closely with the CISO (chief information security officer).”

    I think another reason to give the CDO control over trust and privacy ties back to the level of integration we’ll soon see.

    After all, it’s one thing to maintain trust and privacy policies when the data all flows internally, but that is about to change.

    “The CDO’s role will expand on the historically internal focus of integration to include external data integration,” Bob Renner, president and CEO of Liaison Technologies, writes in “How Data Integration Is Changing the Enterprise Landscape.” “… The mobile devices within a company is opening the door for more data, but leaving IT teams with more to manage and integrate.”

    One more point: While people are upset enough to protest in California, it’s worth noting that New York City and Microsoft created a similar solution in 2012 called the Domain Awareness System (catchy, I know).

    It did not attract this level of attention, and I can’t help but wonder if part of that is because of messaging. Oakland reports that it’s trying to build the “police department of the future, but NY City focused on counterterrorism and potential threats.”

    Future CDOs may find an ugly lesson in there somewhere.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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