Privacy and Big Data—Update on the Update

December 10, 2014 at 5:02 pm Leave a comment

By: Mary Ludloff and Terence Craig

Privacy and Big DataWe’ve been promising an update to our book, Privacy and Big Data, since the just pre- and mostly post-Snowden era. When we proposed and wrote the book it was to fill a void. At the time, there was a lack of mainstream attention to the issues of privacy by the media and a lack of understanding of the issues and implications we all face in the digital world. As tech veterans of long standing, we have seen our world transformed for better and for worse by our industry. Much of the “worst” we chronicled in our book and at the time its release, many relegated our book and ourselves to the “foil hat” and “black helicopter” brigade.  Yes, that was a “we told you so” but we promise it’s the last one.

Then came the Snowden revelations which raised its own hailstorm of media attention, information, misinformation, and disinformation (primarily by our government officials, legislative leaders, and the President as well as the Prime Minister of the UK) on exactly how our data was being collected and what it was being used for. Cynics though we are, we wondered if digital privacy issues had finally reached a tipping point, that we would have a national conversation about civil liberties, how to fix FISA, what is the acceptable collection and use of our data by commercial and government entities, and moving forward, how our liberties and data could be protected from corporate and government spying.

For us, trying to do an update during this period has been like trying to capture lightning in a bottle as almost every day brings a new slant on what we as citizens, and hopefully voters (why does a majority of our population decline to exercise their most fundamental right?), consumers, and businesses need to understand when it comes to privacy issues. Privacy and Big Data is now truly a part of the 24/7 news cycle and our collective psyches have taken a major hit as studies continue to show that the majority of consumers are concerned about the privacy of their information but at the same time, believe that they have little or no control over their personal information. We may have become more “worried,” but as we move into 2015, there is still no sign of a tipping point.

So where do we go from here? Our book was intended to inform and educate mainstream consumers about the issues of privacy and what our data is being collected and used for. Now every media outlet and lots of other books are pretty much doing the same thing. As a result, we have been asking ourselves these questions:

  • Should we update the book (other than occasional blog posts) to reflect the current state of digital privacy and is it a needed addendum to the information already out there?
  • Can we offer something new to the conversation and can we do it in a chapter or two?

Let’s be clear: We still have lots to say about privacy (see our recent bouts at PII 2014 on the impact of emerging technologies on civil liberties and the information revolution and its impact on privacy and identity) but simply updating the book was pretty much a non-starter (although we have done a lot of research and writing on various topics as a natural outgrowth of our big data application business and more recently, as privacy consultants) because the media’s coverage of digital privacy, in all its technological and nuanced glory, is now so comprehensive. Could we offer a different slant? Absolutely, but our new focus is shaping up to be a book in its own right. For now, let’s just say that the Internet of Things has captured our attention and if you, like us, think that “the digital revolution was one of the most transformative events of our time, then the Internet of Things (IoT) is about to redirect history.”

While the benefits of IoT are extraordinary, this new anything that can be connected will be connected universe brings with it a number of challenges in terms of data governance, security, privacy, and other areas. The virtual and physical world have become intertwined and we want to help you explore that new reality.  Once again, we are embarking on a writing adventure and will be providing updates as we move through the book creation process. Check back here for updates on our progress.

Note: We made a concerted effort with Privacy and Big Data to filter out our opinions on the topics we covered. But, as those of you who have heard us speak at conferences and other events can attest to, we are certainly opinionated. For this publication, we decided to inject our own thoughts on the topics as well as what we would like to see happen on a variety of fronts. If you are a publisher or agent who wants to learn more about what we’re doing, email us at:

Now, what about all that stuff we were working on for the update? Well, we came up with a fun way to share our work with all of you in a new series of posts:

Our Top Ten Privacy Trends, Or the More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Every couple of weeks we will publish one of our trends but here’s a teaser to whet your privacy appetites!

Since the initial publication of Privacy and Big Data, privacy-related news has become the topic du jour in the form of reported indiscretions—both personal and professional—pending legislation here and abroad, extended government reach into all of our online and offline activities—pre- and post-NSA revelations—all kinds of purported privacy breaches, along with a myriad of judicial opinions that have yet to signal what an expectation of privacy means in the digital age. Privacy has entered the mainstream psyche and unfortunately, is as confusing and confounding as ever.

While the conversation has certainly gotten louder and more strident, it is still difficult to discern where exactly we are all going to end up (although we are very opinionated on what the outcome will be).  In an attempt to characterize what may look like the uncharacterizable, we give you our take on the top ten privacy trends—not to be confused with David Letterman’s Top Ten lists which are much funnier.

But before we begin: a disclaimer. Sifting through the media coverage, books, blog posts, and research studies has been no easy task. Trying to understand how all of it fits into the larger privacy landscape is even harder. Added to that, a top ten list is sure to elicit a litany of trends that we missed. We certainly hope that it does as it would be another indicator that we as a society are starting to debate what privacy means in the digital age. The more debate the more we can impact privacy guidelines and regulations. Check back in a couple of weeks for our first privacy trend—and keep in mind that they are in no particular order as each is equally significant!

And before we end this post: Our thanks to O’Reilly editors Mike Loukides (@mikeloukides) and Meghan Blanchette (@MeghanORM). Their feedback throughout the book development process and their support pre- and post-release was much appreciated!

Entry filed under: Book, Privacy and Big Data. Tags: , , , .

In a pii (Privacy, Identity, Innovation) Conference State of Mind Trend #1: Digital Advertising Comes of Age and Continues to Propel the Growth of Data Brokers and Markets

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