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  • May 14, 2015

Big Data and the Future of Privacy - paper review (Part 1 of 3)

Wes Prichard
Senior Director Industry Solution Architecture

What is privacy and what does it really mean for big data? Some say that privacy and big data are incompatible. Recall Mark Zuckerberg's comments in 2010 that the rise in social media means that people no longer have an expectation of privacy. I recently read a paper titled Big Data and the Future of Privacy from the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law where the authors argue the opposite. Their ideas provide more food for thought in the quest for guiding principles on privacy for big data solutions.

What do we mean when we talk about data privacy? Can data be private if it is collected and stored by another party? The paper's authors, Neil M. Richards and Jonathan H. King, take on these questions but point out privacy is difficult to define. We often think of private data as being secret or unobserved yet we share information with others with an expectation of privacy and protection. Rather than getting wrapped up in the nuances of a legal definition they suggest that for personal information in digital systems, information exists in intermediate states between public and private and the information should not lose legal protection in those intermediate states. The authors suggest that a practical approach to dealing with data privacy is to focus on the rules that govern that data.

See Parts 2 and 3 for an overview of their suggested values and rules for data privacy.

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