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

Balancing Act

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY DAN COOK

The Affordable Care Act has triggered a rush on health care plan redesign, a process fraught with hidden costs and consequences.


Read more...

Oregon needs a Grand Bargain energy plan

Linda Baker
Monday, June 22, 2015
0622-gastaxblogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

The Clean Fuels/gas tax trade off will go down in history as another disjointed, on-again off-again approach to city and state lawmaking.


Read more...

Marijuana law ushers in new business age

The Latest
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
062315panelthumbBY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

Oregon’s new marijuana law is expected to lead to a bevy of new business opportunities for the state. And not just for growers. Law firms, HR consultants, energy efficiency companies and many others are expected to benefit from the decriminalization of pot, according to panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast meeting on Tuesday.


Read more...

Reader Input: Rx for Health Care

July/August 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

We asked readers how Obamacare has impacted their business.


Read more...

Preserving the Legacy

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

A New York floral and gift business takes on the iconic Harry & David brand.


Read more...

Downtime with Debra Ringold

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Dean of the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University


Read more...

Store Bought

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Market of Choice is on a tear. In 2012 the 35-year-old Eugene-based grocery chain opened a central kitchen/distribution center in its hometown. The market opened its third Portland store in the Cedar Mill neighborhood this year; another outpost in Bend broke ground in March. A fourth Portland location is slated for the inner southeast “LOCA” development, a mixed-use project featuring condos and retail. Revenues in 2014 were $175 million, a double-digit increase over 2013. CEO Rick Wright discusses growth, market trends and how he keeps new “foodie” grocery clerks happy.


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