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Author's profile photo Vic Chung

The true worth of our data, aggregated.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend a public salon in Vancouver where professionals from different disciplines presented on topics they are passionate about in their daily lives. There were architects, social developers, artists, and journalists presenting their latest work and perspectives. It was a night of controversies, though with good debates and discussions. As a professional in information security, two presentations really caught my attention and I thought it’s worth sharing.

The first presentation was a journalist’s analysis of how fake-news on social media has the ability to spread faster that real-news. Our society is filled with 140-characters long opinion where key opinion leaders are more influential than any industry experts or authoritative figure. From a journalist’s perspective, objective, impartial news are very hard to come by with the rise of unmonitored, unpatrolled media. The second presentation was an architect’s reflection on how big-data and IoT is redefining his profession. As a quasi-designer, he rationalized the newer generation of architects lack traditional training and intuition but focused on how to use the latest computer programs to meet employment demands.

The term information economy should not be foreign to us. Indeed, we have arrived at the tipping-point of the biggest revolution yet in modern history. Information technology has matured to a point where realistic use-cases are available to digitalize (a step beyond ‘industrialize’) our trades and workforce. This is scary to many people where the gloomy picture of humanoid robots may govern and replace us one day.

Rather, it is important for us to stay calm and be in control of our digitalization journey.

An imminent topic we should all be concerned of, is data privacy and security. This is not news. However, the upcoming implementation of GDPR should have you thinking of privacy if not already. The value of our personal data is impossible to quantify, as illustrated in many technology companies built around our data as asset. Indeed, these technology companies may provide much benefit to our digitalization journey, yet with an unknown cost to our privacy. I believe GDPR is a good first-step to set the boundaries to data protection, and also a recognition and realization of information monetization has indeed arrived.

We should embrace changes along our digital journey, with the belief that is possible to have our cake and eat it too.

IoT and Big Data indeed bring much value to our daily lives (think about way-finding, avoiding traffic, controlling at-home appliances). To overcome privacy concerns, anonymization can be a good middle-ground to balance our privacy and utility. We ought to realize companies may have little interest in our identifiable data, but our anonymized, aggregated data can yield to insights useful to advance our technology and society. Annoymization is something we are working on at SAP. It may not be perfect, but definitely a good start in the right direction.

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