Written by Drew J. Lipman, PhD, Lead Data Scientist at Hypergiant
Unless you have been living in a cave, you are probably familiar with (or have at least heard of) Big Data. What Big Data means, how it impacts your life, and what its existence means for the world around you, however, are less understood. And, while the issue of how Big Data’s very existence impacts your life is rarely discussed, it might be of special interest to know exactly how your personal information is being used as data points within the larger web and scope.
One response to this is an approach to personal data control called data privatization. While this concept is not new, there is huge potential growth in the market for methods and programs that privatize data, and savvy consumers (along with those who market to them) should make themselves familiar with these concepts.
What Privatization Means
We are in the simultaneously wonderful and horrible situation where our data is being both actively collected and processed. What does this mean for consumers? Major corporations are collecting, storing, using, and, in some cases, selling data about you without your permission or with permission buried so deep in a user agreement that you don’t even know you’ve agreed. Moreover, unless you want to live without the services they provide, there is not a whole lot that can be done to stop these organizations — given how the system is currently designed. Even if the data sold is sanitized (with names and addresses removed), it is often not enough to protect your privacy.
For example, when Netflix issued a challenge to help improve their movie suggestion algorithm, they provided a sanitized database. However, with a little side channel knowledge from outside the dataset (terminology stolen from cryptography), your account can be identified. If you are interested in making your data private, meaning you have it and no one else does, there are options. Most, however, are more about protecting yourself from hackers than from legitimate, “trusted” vendors collecting information about how, when, and where you interact with them.
Since many of us are unwilling, or unable, to do without our Netflix, Amazon, Ebay, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google accounts, there is very little that we can do to make our data truly private. Instead, we ask the obvious question: why do corporations collect data about their users? The immemorial answer is money. Big Data about customers is worth billions of dollars. So, if companies are making money using your data, and it is not really feasible to stop them from collecting it, then what can we do?
One option is to privatize your data. If someone is to make money from your data, then why not you? While the concept of privatized data has been around for a while, it is only recently that Machine Intelligence techniques have evolved enough to make it a reasonable approach. Anyone nowadays with a smartphone or Windows has Machine Intelligence (MI) installed — a Machine Intelligence that would make true privatization feasible if it were working for the consumer instead of the corporation.
A simple search for your name on Google, and possibly a few other common websites, reveals more information about you than anyone (with the possible exception of your mother) cares to know about you. Most people do not even know what information about them is out there — after all, how often do people do a simple search for themselves?
Want to learn more about how machine intelligence factors into your data privacy? Download the full PDF on data privatization here.