Sponsored by Oregon Business

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

Beam Me Up

April 2015
Thursday, March 19, 2015
BY DAN COOK | Photos by Jason E. Kaplan

An alliance of developers, academics and timber industry executives wants to position Oregon as a front runner in the glamorous new world of wooden skyscrapers.


Read more...

6 development projects reshaping Bend

The Latest
Thursday, April 09, 2015
bendthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Bend has reclaimed its prerecession title as one of the fastest growing cities in the country.


Read more...

The 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon

March 2015
Thursday, February 26, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR

Employment in Oregon is almost back up to prerecession levels — and employers are having to work harder to entice talented staff to join their ranks. This year’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon project showcases the kind of quality workplaces that foster happy employees. 


Read more...

Opening soon: 3 of the coolest new breweries in Oregon

The Latest
Thursday, March 19, 2015
brewthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

There are 278 companies licensed to operate as brewery, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Here are three new beer-making hubs slated to open soon.


Read more...

Emperor of the Sea

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY COURTNEY SHERWOOD | Photos by Jason E. Kaplan

Pacific Seafood, one of the world’s largest processors, is rebranding as a more transparent and consumer-friendly operation. A controversial CEO and monopoly accusations from coastal fishermen complicate the tale.


Read more...

100 Best: The Power of the Worker

March 2015
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR
AND AMY MILSHTEIN | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Technology is empowering people like never before and transforming how employees interact in the workplace. How can companies attract and keep staff engaged in this rapidly changing world?


Read more...

Bike Chic: 7 stylish options for cyclists

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cycling to work is all the rage. But not everyone wants to arrive at the office messy, sweaty — and unfashionable.


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