Aug 14, 2017 Who Draws the Line on Privacy—and Where Is It?

Cyber Security / Data Conference / All Posts

PARTNERS Session: Data Science and the Privacy Paradox

Our privacy is continually slipping away. According to Liza Duffy, Data Scientist for Teradata, “Every year, we lose a little bit of our privacy rights.”

As businesses, we strive to get more information to better serve our customers and be more efficient. But how much information do businesses need, and where is collection fair game for business and respectful of the consumer’s privacy? The questions are on everybody’s mind: where are the lines in privacy, who is in charge, and what are the responsibilities of a data scientist? To help further that discussion, Teradata PARTNERS is hosting a Meet-Up session, led by resident expert and passionate follower of privacy issues, Liza Duffy.

“It’s a big interest of mine, and I see the paradox: we’re data scientists, we have great clients, and we love working with them and helping to meet their challenges,” says Duffy. “But we’re also consumers, and we also become very aware of what’s being collected about us as consumers and citizens.”

Higher Education Sparks Higher Understanding

Duffy began to seriously consider the implications of privacy while working in Human Resources at Harvard. “It really taught me about privacy and confidentiality of data,” she says. “We had access to every single HR record for every employee for Harvard—around 18,000 employees. I learned a lot about privacy, confidentiality of data, and respecting personal data.”

From that beginning, she definitely started paying more attention. “What I’ve noticed is that my own behavior has changed dramatically in the past three years. When I joined Teradata I was living in Europe, and the European laws are quite different around online data privacy.”

“Coming back to the U.S., I noticed that I wouldn’t join as many loyalty programs, for instance. Not for any horrific reasons, but sometimes things you do day-to-day, you may not know how that data is being used. As a data scientist, we’re right up in front with understanding how it could possibly be used.”


The Omnipresent Risk

Just as one example, Liza cites everyone’s favorite sidekick, the smart phone. “Most of us have a smart phone, and we don’t know to what extent the data has been collected,” she says. “We in data science know, for instance, that you can take all of the calls you make and easily understand the social network around people. That’s been going on for many, many years. But when you talk about voice recording, or use of the microphone, pictures, and as the phone is integrated into our lives more and more, it’s what we don’t know that is collected that is most concerning to me.”

The main issue to Liza is that “Users give consent without really understanding the full privacy rights of the data collected on the phone. What are the businesses doing and what’s really being done with the data is one concern. But potential hacking of the stored information is another obvious concern.”

Who Draws the Line?

Who decides what is too far and where the lines should be. In other words, who will watch the watchmen? Liza believes it should be a team effort. “I think it starts as a collaboration between businesses and data scientists. As data scientists, we need to advise companies and it’s our responsibility to point out potential areas of concern.”

Because the area is so new, many questions businesses are searching for can appear innocuous if all of the implications aren’t considered. It can be a delicate position for the data scientist. Said Duffy, “I’ve had situations where, while I understand what businesses are after, it make me a little uncomfortable that they’re using this data that way. That’s when it’s up to the data scientist to advise them; what can you get out of this data, and what can’t you, and why you shouldn’t make an assumption about that data.” That takes more than just understanding the algorithm and the data sets.

Next Steps

Because privacy issues and concerns are moving so quickly, data scientists will continue to be thrust into the forefront. While it is important for everyone to be educated and aware, for the data scientist it’s especially important that they keep current with what’s happening in online privacy at all times to protect themselves and their clients. Open discussions, like those in this Meet-Up session at PARTNERS, are critical to being educated and vigilant.

Space in Meet-Up sessions is limited and preregistration is required. Register now so that you don’t miss out!


Data Science and the Privacy Paradox – Session 0542

Previous PARTNERS participants say they want more time and greater access to subject matter experts to discuss very specific topics. You asked, we listened! This new Meet-Up format connects a very small group with a great subject matter expert who will facilitate a meaningful discussion. No lectures, no death by PowerPoint®, just interactive discussion. Come prepared to ask questions and engage with your peers. Meet-Up sessions are limited to the first 15 people to preregister for the session. Action: Preregistration is required.

Liza Duffy, Data Scientist, Teradata

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