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

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...

The 5 highest revenue-generating parks in Oregon

The Latest
Thursday, June 11, 2015
parksthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

In 2014, total revenue for camping and day use in Oregon State Parks was a little more than $17 million. That figure may even higher this year "because we've had exceptionally nice weather," Hughes says.


Read more...

Nine lives

Linda Baker
Friday, May 22, 2015
0f4f7bfBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

Roy Kaufmann always lands on his feet.


Read more...

Department of Self-Promotion

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 17, 2015

061715-awards1Oregon Business wins journalism awards.


Read more...

An uncertain future

Guest Blog
Thursday, May 21, 2015
norristhumbBY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER

Uncertainty is a part of doing business, whether in through the lens of investment opportunities and risks or the business of running an enterprise.


Read more...

Oregon businesses face destruction from future earthquake

The Latest
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
htctthumb1BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

An earthquake would completely destroy many Oregon businesses, highlighting the urgent need for the private and public sectors to collaborate on shoring up disaster preparedness, said panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast summit today.


Read more...

100 Best Green Workplaces announced

News
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
OBM-100-best-Green-logo-2015-1000pxwBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

More than 250 people turned out today for Oregon Business magazine’s seventh annual celebration of the 100 Best Green Companies to Work For in Oregon.


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