So what did we learn from Data Privacy Day?

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  • Author: Statistics Views
  • Date: 29 January 2015
  • Copyright: iStock Photo

Yesterday marked Data Privacy Day, which is rapidly becoming an annual event for data professionals around the world, held each year on 28th January. Perhaps more so than in the US than anywhere else, it serves as a useful reminder of the need to protect ourselves in an ever more invasive world.

thumbnail image: So what did we learn from Data Privacy Day?

Most marked it with ways to protect your privacy, from the supervision of youngsters when they use the internet, from not allowing them to sign up for anything without parental permission, always using private WiFi and checking all privacy policies on sites.

Perhaps the most surprising revelation yesterday that the most used password in 2014 was '123456'. We live in an age where hackers are almost able to prevent the release of a major Hollywood feature film, as was the case in recent months with North Korea making threats due to the release of 'The Interview'. Freedom of speech and our own privacy should be basic human rights.

CEOs from digital companies around the world stressed that privacy is different from security. Silent Circle and Blackphone co-founder Phil Zimmerman spoke on the loss of Sony's records - "I'm sure Sony had firewalls and VPNs, intrusion detection and antivirus, policies and procedures -- all the usual artifacts of corporate information security. Those things securely delivered a mountain of information to Sony's servers, where it was lost all at once...When it was lost, the privacy of Sony's partners and employees went with it. That's what corporate privacy is -- the privacy of the people in and around the corporation. If we focus on their privacy rather than the corporation's security maybe we can make better choices...Many kinds of information don't need to be stored for long, or at all. If only participants keep a copy of their correspondence the company can't lose it. Imagine how much worse the damage of a security breach would be if companies routinely kept years of recordings of all employees' phone calls." (www.cbronline.com, 28th January 2015)

What came out of Data Privacy Day was the need to educate others but outside data professionals, who was aware it was Data Privacy Day? Was it featured in national news? No, but here in the UK, we learnt that Facebook had increased its advertising revenue by 53% instead (BBC News, 28th January 2015). Are the profiles of these Facebook users still private after clicking on these ads? Who knows?

This brings to mind the Big Data Debate held in London over two years ago. Dr Farida Vis of Sheffield University said that the danger with Big Data is that it has implications of reducing people to a number and where do humans come in? Big Data calls into question the ethics of having such enormous data sets available to the general public as a potential invasion of our private lives.

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