ENTRIES TAGGED "data privacy"

Strata Week: Why we should care about what the NSA may or may not be doing

Response to NSA data mining and the troubling lack of technical details, Facebook's Open Compute data center, and local police are growing their own DNA databases.

It’s a question of power, not privacy — and what is the NSA really doing?

PEW graph

Pew Research Center national survey

In the wake of the leaked NSA data-collection programs, the Pew Research Center conducted a national survey to measure American’s response. The survey found that 56% of respondents think NSA’s telephone record tracking program is an acceptable method to investigate terrorism, and 62% said the government’s investigations into possible terrorist threats are more important than personal privacy.

Rebecca J. Rosen at The Atlantic took a look at legal scholar Daniel J. Solove’s argument that we should care about the government’s collection of our data, but not for the reasons one might think — the collection itself, he argues, isn’t as troubling as the fact that they’re holding the data in perpetuity and that we don’t have access to it. Rosen quotes Solove:

“The NSA program involves a massive database of information that individuals cannot access. … This kind of information processing, which forbids people’s knowledge or involvement, resembles in some ways a kind of due process problem. It is a structural problem involving the way people are treated by government institutions. Moreover, it creates a power imbalance between individuals and the government. … This issue is not about whether the information gathered is something people want to hide, but rather about the power and the structure of government.”

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Strata Week: Wireless body area networks bring humans into the Internet of Things

Humans as nodes, pills and electronic tattoo password authenticators, NSA surveillance leaks, and hiding data in temporal cloaks.

Collaborative sensor networks of humans, and your body may be the next two-factor authenticator

There has been much coverage recently of the Internet of Things, connecting everything from washers and dryers to thermostats to cars to the Internet. Wearable sensors — things like FitBit and health-care-related sensors that can be printed onto fabric or even onto human skin — are also in the spotlight.

Kevin Fitchard reports at GigaOm that researchers at CEA-Leti and three French universities believe these areas are not mutually exclusive and have launched a project around wireless body area networks called CORMORAN. The group believes that one day soon our bodies will be constantly connected to the Internet via sensors and transmitters that “can be used to form cooperative ad hoc networks that could be used for group indoor navigation, crowd-motion capture, health monitoring on a massive scale and especially collaborative communications,” Fitchard writes. He takes a look at some of the benefits and potential applications of such a collaborative network — location-based services would be able to direct users to proper gates or trains in busy airports and train stations, for instance — and some of the pitfalls, such as potential security and privacy issues. You can read his full report at GigaOm.

In related news, wearable sensors — and even our bodies — may not only be used to connect us to a network, but also to identify us as well. Read more…

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Strata Week: President Obama opens up U.S. government data

U.S. opens data, Wong tapped for U.S. chief privacy officer, FBI might read your email sans warrant, and big data spells trouble for anonymity.

U.S. government data to be machine-readable, Nicole Wong may fill new White House chief privacy officer role

The U.S. government took major steps this week to open up government data to the public. U.S. President Obama signed an executive order requiring government data to be made available in machine-readable formats, and the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy released a Open Data Policy memo (PDF) to address the order’s implementation.

The press release announcing the actions notes the benefit the U.S. economy historically has experienced with the release of government data — GPS data, for instance, sparked a flurry of innovation that ultimately contributed “tens of billions of dollars in annual value to the American economy,” according to the release. President Obama noted in a statement that he hopes a similar result will come from this open data order: “Starting today, we’re making even more government data available online, which will help launch even more new startups. And we’re making it easier for people to find the data and use it, so that entrepreneurs can build products and services we haven’t even imagined yet.”

FCW’s Adam Mazmanian notes a bit from the Open Data Policy memo that indicates the open data framework doesn’t only apply to data the government intends to make public. Read more…

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Strata Week: Movers and shakers on the data journalism front

Reuters' Connected China, accessing Pew's datasets, Simon Rogers' move to Twitter, data privacy solutions, and Intel's shift away from chips.

Reuters launches Connected China, Pew instructs on downloading its data, and Twitter gets a data editor

Yue Qiu and Wenxiong Zhang took a look this week at a data journalism effort by Reuters, the Connected China visualization application. Qiu and Zhang report that “[o]ver the course of about 18 months, a dozen bilingual reporters based in Hong Kong dug into government websites, government reports, policy papers, Mainland major publications, English news reporting, academic texts, and think-tank reports to build up the database.”

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Strata Week: Court case sheds light on FBI stingray surveillance

Intrusiveness of FBI stingrays, IRS vs Fourth Amendment, Liquid Robotics' AWS of open seas, and Republicans want big data.

FBI and IRS push privacy envelope

Details about how the FBI uses stingray or IMSI-catcher technology — and how much more intrusive it is than previously known — have come to light in a tax fraud case against accused identity thief Daniel David Rigmaiden. Kim Zetter reports at Wired that the FBI, in coordination with Verizon Wireless, was able to track Rigmaiden’s location by reprogramming his air card to connect to the FBI’s fake cell tower, or stingray, when calls came to a landline controlled by the FBI. “The FBI calls, which contacted the air card silently in the background, operated as pings to force the air card into revealing its location,” Zetter explains.

The U.S. government claims it doesn’t need a warrant to use stingrays “because they don’t collect the content of phone calls and text messages and operate like pen-registers and trap-and-traces, collecting the equivalent of header information,” Zetter says, but in this particular case they got a probable-cause warrant because the stingray located and accessed the air card remotely through Rigmaiden’s apartment.

The issue at stake in this case is whether or not the court was fully informed as to the intrusiveness of the technology when it granted the warrant. Read more…

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Strata Week: Can big data save human language?

Big data and language preservation, growing data privacy concerns, and a comparison of big data to crude oil.

Preserving human language with big data

Inspired by Deb Roy’s 2011 TEDTalk, “The Birth of a Word,” Nataly Kelly at the Huffington Post’s TEDWeekends took a look at the potential effect big data could have on language — specifically, on preserving endangered and dying languages.

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Strata Week: Raising the world’s data privacy IQ

Celebrating Data Privacy Day, how data fits into Bill Gates' education plan, and why "long data" deserves our attention.

Data Privacy Day and the fight against “digital feudalism”

Data Privacy Day was celebrated this week. Led by the National Cyber Security Alliance, the day is meant to increase awareness of personal data protection and “to empower people to protect their privacy and control their digital footprint and escalate the protection of privacy and data as everyone’s priority,” according to the website.

Many companies used the day as an opportunity to issue transparency reports, re-informing users and customers about how their data is used and and how it’s protected. Google added a new section to its transparency report, a Q&A on how the company handles personal user data requests from government agencies and courts.

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Strata Week: The complexities of forecasting the big data market

IDC forecast underestimates big data growth, EU report sounds an alarm over FISA Amendments Act, and big data's growing role in daily life.

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

Big data needs a bigger forecast

The International Data Corporation (IDC) released a forecast this week, projecting “the worldwide big data technology and services market will grow at a 31.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) — about seven times the rate of the overall information and communication technology (ICT) market — with revenues reaching $23.8 billion in 2016.”

According to the press release, findings from IDC’s research also forecasted specific segment growth, including 21.1% CAGR for services and 53.4% for storage. GigaOm’s Derrick Harris says IDC’s research “only tells part of the story” and that the market will actually be much bigger. For instance, Harris notes that the report doesn’t include analytics software, a critical component of the big data market that the IDC predicts will hit $51 billion by 2016. And what of the outliers? Harris writes:

” .. .where does one include the rash of Software-as-a-Service applications targeting fields from marketing to publishing? They’re all about big data at their core, but the companies selling them certainly don’t fit into the mold of ‘big data’ vendors.”

Harris highlights potential problems the IDC might have in maintaining their report segments — servers, storage, networking, software and services — with more and more cloud providers hosting big data applications and startups offering cloud-based big data services; calculating these revenues will be no easy feat, he writes. You can read Harris’ piece in full at GigaOm.

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Strata Week: Big data gets warehouse services

AWS Redshift and BitYota launch, big data's problems could shift to real time, and NYPD may be crossing a line with cellphone records.

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

Amazon, BitYota launch data warehousing services

Amazon announced the beta launch of its Amazon Web Services data warehouse service Amazon Redshift this week. Paul Sawers at The Next Web reports that Amazon hopes to democratize data warehousing services, offering affordable options to make such services viable for small businesses while enticing large companies with cheaper alternatives. Depending on the service plan, customers can launch Redshift clusters scaling to more than a petabyte for less than $1,000 per terabyte per year.

So far, the service has drawn in some big players — Sawers notes that the initial private beta has more than 20 customers, including NASA/JPL, Netflix, and Flipboard.

Brian Proffitt at ReadWrite took an in-depth look at the service, noting its potential speed capabilities and the importance of its architecture. Proffitt writes that Redshift’s massively parallel processing (MPP) architecture “means that unlike Hadoop, where data just sits cheaply waiting to be batch processed, data stored in Redshift can be worked on fast — fast enough for even transactional work.”

Proffitt also notes that Redshift isn’t without its red flags, pointing out that a public cloud service not only raises issues of data security, but of the cost of data access — the bandwidth costs of transferring data back and forth. He also raises concerns that this service may play into Amazon’s typical business model of luring customers into its ecosystem bits at a time. Proffitt writes:

“If you have been keeping your data and applications local, shifting to Redshift could also mean shifting your applications to some other part of the AWS ecosystem as well, just to keep the latency times and bandwidth costs reasonable. In some ways, Redshift may be the AWS equivalent of putting the milk in the back of the grocery store.”

In related news, startup BitYota also launched a data warehousing service this week. Larry Dignan reports at ZDNet that BitYota is built on a cloud infrastructure and uses SQL technology, and that service plans will start at $1,500 per month for 500GB of data. As to competition with AWS Redshift, BitYota co-founder and CEO Dev Patel told Dignan that it’s a non-issue: “[Redshift is] not a competitor to us. Amazon is taking the traditional data warehouse and making it available. We focus on a SaaS approach where the hardware layer is abstracted away,” he said.

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Strata Week: Investors embrace Hadoop BI startups

Platfora, Continuuity secure funding; the Internet of Things gets connected; and personal big data needs a national awareness campaign.

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

Two Hadoop BI startups secure funding

Hadoop LogoThere were a couple notable pieces of investment news this week. Platfora, a startup looking to democratize Hadoop as a business intelligence (BI) tool for everyday business users, announced this week that it has raised $20 million in series B funding, bringing its total funding to $25.7 million, according to a report by Derrick Harris at GigaOm.

Harris notes that investors seem to get the technology — CEO Ben Werther told Harris that in this funding round, discussions moved to signed term sheets in just three weeks. Harris writes that the smooth investment experience “probably has something to do with the consensus the company has seen among venture capitalists, who project Hadoop will take about 20 percent of a $30 billion legacy BI market and are looking for the startups with the vision to win that business.”

Platfora faces plenty of well-funded legacy BI competitors, but Werther told Christina Farr at Venture Beat that Platfora’s edge is speed: “People can visualize and ask questions about data within hours. There is no six-month cycle time to make Hadoop amazing.”

In other investment news, Continuuity announced it has secured $10 million in series A funding to further develop AppFabric, its cloud-based platform-as-a-service tool designed to host Hadoop-based BI applications. Alex Wilhelm reports at The Next Web that Continuuity is looking to make AppFabric “the de facto location where developers can move their big data tools from idea to product, without worrying about building their own backend, or fretting about element integration.”

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