Home The Latest Data Science: Part II

Data Science: Part II

| Print |  Email
The Latest
Wednesday, June 19, 2013

BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

I asked Thomas Thurston, the data scientist featured in our May issue, to comment on the uproar surrounding PRISM, the code name for the NSA's massive data-collection program, recently exposed in documents leaked by federal contractor Edward Snowden. 

Here are my questions, followed by Thurston's email response.

OB: You use big data to benefit business. But how would you articulate the relationship between Big Data and political surveillance?  Are the two natural bedfellows? there any lesson or insight to be gleaned about Big Data in the aftermath of the Snowden episode? 

Thurston: Scientific discovery is like 'the force' in Star Wars – it can be used for good or bad.  On its own, data science and 'big data' are neutral.  They allow humanity to do things it couldn't before.  This is great when it comes to curing disease and stopping crime, but it can also raise difficult social issues as we're seeing now.  

The prime example is when Target used big data to determine a teenage girl was probably pregnant.  They started sending her coupons and ads for babies, causing her father to storm into a Target store and give a wicked scolding to the manager on duty.  A little while later the father went back to Target and apologized after going home to learn his daughter actually was pregnant and hadn't told him yet.  Big data knew his daughter was pregnant before he did!  That's a great example of how big data is powerful, but can also be a little creepy.

Big data is about getting more data and learning from it more effectively. Privacy is about not sharing your data and stopping people from learning about you.  In this way, the two (big data and privacy) are natural adversaries.  They are two extremes.  Both are important and, with 90% of the world's data created in the last 2 years alone, we're the first generation in the history of the world to deal with the tension at anything close to this level of scale.  The entire Library of Alexandria could fit in your iPhone.  It's an exciting world indeed, but also a little scary.

Obviously society will have to strike a balance between information and privacy.  That said, as a data scientist who studies business I see that as fertile ground for opportunity.  The future is ripe for business models to help us benefit from big data while maintaining our privacy.  It's a terrific place to invest.

Linda Baker keeps tabs on CEO and public policy issues.

 

Comments   

 
Guest
0 #1 own your own dataGuest 2013-06-26 16:13:54
Informative discussion. Technology must enable personal ownership of one's data. It is an asset that is sold by others but could benefit the individual if it could be gathered and traded in a data economy. This would be good for the individual and create privacy as well as still benefiting big data.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Portland rises

News
Monday, August 18, 2014

IMG 2551Portland is in the middle of another construction boom, with residential and office projects springing up downtown, in the Pearl and Old Town. OB Web Editor Jessica Ridgway documents the new wave.


Read more...

Buyer's Remorse

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Parents and students paying for college today are like homeowners who bought a house just before the housing bubble burst.


Read more...

South Waterfront's revenge

News
Thursday, July 24, 2014
MoodyAveBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Remember the naysayers?  Those who called the South Waterfront aerial tram a boondoggle?  Those who rejoiced at the massive sell off of luxury condos at the John Ross and Atwater Place?


Read more...

Downtime

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

How State Representative Julie Parrish (House District 37) balances life between work and play.


Read more...

Podcast: Interview with Pete Friedes

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

082714-thumb friedesbookTom Cox interviews Pete Friedes, author of "The 2R Manager," about becoming a Best Boss.


Read more...

Register for 100 Best Companies survey

News
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
OBM-100-best-logo-2015 150pxwBy Kim Moore | OB Editor

The 2015 survey launched this week. It is open to for-profit private and public companies that have at least 15 full- or part-time employees in Oregon.


Read more...

Molecular Movies

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Dr. Chong Fang isn’t God. But the assistant professor of chemistry at Oregon State University is getting closer to figuring out how he put everything together. 


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS