"Let me begin with my vision of the FTC and its role in light of the emergence of big data. I grew up in a beach town in Southern California. To me, the FTC is like the lifeguard on a beach. Like a vigilant lifeguard, the FTC’s job is not to spoil anyone’s fun but to make sure that no one gets hurt. With big data, the FTC’s job is to get out of the way of innovation while making sure that consumer privacy is respected."
- Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman, Federal
Ms. Ramirez highlights the FTC's role in protecting consumers from what she refers to as "indiscriminate data collection" of personal information. Her main concern is that organizations can potentially use this information to ultimately implicate individual privacy. There are many instances highlighting the ability to take what was previously considered anonymous data, only to correlate with other publicly available information in order to increase the ability to implicate individuals.
Finding Out Truthful Data from "Anonymous" Information
Her concerns are not unfounded; the highly referenced paper Robust De-anonymization of Large Sparse Datasets, illustrates the sensitivity of supposedly anonymous information. The authors were able to identify the publicly available and "anonymous" dataset of 500,000 Netflix subscribers by cross referencing it with the Internet Movie Database. They were able to successfully identify records of users, revealing such sensitive data as the subscribers' political and religious preferences, for example. In a more recent instance of big data security concerns, the public release of a New York taxi cab data set was completely de-anonymized, ultimately unveiling cab driver annual income, and possibly more alarming, the weekly travel habits of their passengers.
Many large firms have found their big data projects shut down by compliance officers concerned about legal or regulatory violations. Chairwoman Hernandez highlights specific cases where the FTC has cracked down on firms they feel have violated customer privacy rights, including the United States vs. Google, Facebook, and Twitter. She feels that big data opens up additional security challenges that must be addressed.
"Companies are putting data together in new ways, comingling data sets that have never been comingled before," says Jeff Pollock, Oracle vice president for product management. "That’s precisely the value of big data environments. But these changes are also leading to interesting new security and compliance concerns."
The possible security and privacy pitfalls of big data center around three fundamental areas:
- Ubiquitous and indiscriminate collection from a wide range of devices
- Unexpected uses of collected data, especially without customer consent
- Unintended data breach risks with larger consequences
Organizations will find big data experimentation easier to initiate when the data involved is locked down. They need to be able to address regulatory and privacy concerns by demonstrating compliance. This means extending modern security practices like data masking and redaction to the full big data environment, in addition to the must-haves of access, authorization and auditing.
Securing the big data lifecycle requires:
- Authentication and authorization of users, applications and databases
- Privileged user access and administration
- Data encryption of data at rest and in motion
- Data redaction and masking for non production environments
- Separation of roles and responsibilities
- Implementing least privilege
- Transport security
- API security
- Monitoring, auditing, alerting and compliance reporting
With Oracle, organizations can achieve all the benefits that big data has to offer while providing a comprehensive data security approach that ensures the right people, internal and external, get access to the appropriate data at right time and place, within the right channel. The Oracle Big Data solution prevents and safeguards against malicious attacks and protects organizational information assets by securing data in-motion and at-rest. It enables organizations to separate roles and responsibilities and protect sensitive data without compromising privileged user access, such as database administrators. Furthermore, it provides monitoring, auditing and compliance reporting across big data systems as well as traditional data management systems.
Learn more about Oracle Security Solutions.
This article has been re-purposed from the Oracle Big Data blog.