Public Privacy — An Oxymoron Worthy of Consideration

(Image by imaginary SIRE)

This ControlTrends post takes a small step towards addressing the enormous subject of Public Privacy as it pertains to Big Data. The boundless use and proliferation of Big Data is now everywhere at once — for every conceivable purpose from medical diagnoses and corresponding treatment plans, advertising networks, data brokers, insurance providers, smart grid operators and energy usage managers (our insertion point to this subject), public and private traffic management, border control, access to employment, criminal investigations and sentencing, justice authorities, scientists, the granting of social welfare, and combating social security fraud.

The benefits are all too obvious. But what next? IBM has introduced “autonomic computing,” suggesting that autonomous computing systems will adapt to our external environment just like the autonomic nervous system ‘runs’ our internal environment: in ways we have no conscious access, and over which we have no direct control (Mireille Hildebrandt). Imagine not being able to control the behavior solutions that Big Data proposes or decides. That’s pretty sci-fi?

Let the tough questions begin: Does the refined knowledge at the aggregate level make invisible infringements on our rights to privacy? Are we assured that our data is protected? Are we safe from prohibited discrimination? How is it possible to contest these invasions? And where do our rights begin and end? Fortunately, two very good sources appear for deeper development.

IversityThe first was the free on-line Iversity course “Public Privacy: Cyber Security and Human Rights” taught by Professor Dr. Anja Mihr that really drills deep into the recent public debate on data protection, privacy infringements, and the connection between cyber security and human rights.

smartgrid.govThe second source of was the good old DOE’s Update on the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Data Privacy in which the DOE addresses Privacy for Data Enabled by Smart Grid Technologies. Exerpt from the Multistakeholder Process to develop Voluntary Code of Conduct: Throughout the U.S., intelligence is being added to the grid through the deployment of advanced technologies and grid modernization efforts. This increased intelligence has led to concerns regarding consumer data access and the privacy of consumer energy consumption data. Historically, utilities have taken very seriously the job of protecting customers’ privacy, and privacy and security protections will remain fundamental objectives. However, with the new technologies being deployed today, these fundamental protections warrant new attention. Consumers must feel secure that their data will be protected and treated responsibly. Therefore, it is important that stakeholders on all sides of the privacy debate work together to address concerns and coordinate activities. Source:

The interest level of the ControlTrends Community will drive further developments and posts. All comments are welcome!


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