New year’s resolution: Apply the 8-Day Data Detox Kit

https://theglassroomnyc.org/data-detox/

theglassroomnyc.org/data-detox/

We are approaching the end of the year. For most of us this is the time to Last Year’s introspection and New Year’s big resolutions…(and if you don’t usually do it I recommend it to you: time flies (!) and taking the wheel of your life brings you a lovely sense of realisation 🙂

Have you given a thought about what you accomplished this year? How do that match your good intentions from the previous new year? Yes, I know, that’s a low blow… who can remember that far? And even if you do, we all tend to be so optimistic about our capabilities 😉

But if you don’t remember what you did this year, or what you were doing that didn’t allowed you to reach your goals…well, you can always check the web to remind you about that (or as we say nowadays: just google it!)

There was recently an exhibition in New York City called The glass room: Looking into your online life about our online data imprinting and the many tools that track our online behavior.

After checking it, you will be more convinced than ever to begin 2017 with the proposed Data Detox Plan.

So here I am proposing you to put, next to your diet to recover after the gastronomic excesses of New Year’s Eve, the 8-Day Data Detox Plan.  It will help you see how you look like to others online, and adjust the level of traces you leave behind, taking back control of your public image, of your ‘persona’.

Happy New Year 2017!  let me pass along a great message from my friend Marie-Noëlle (do I have to mention that she has a communication agency? ;-): ‘Welcome the 365 new opportunities to convert your goals into success

Big Data workshop at the First European Celebration of Women in Computing

ECWCThis last Tuesday, I lead the ‘Discover Big Data’ workshop at the First European Celebration of Women in Computing.  There were many parallel sessions that morning and I received some questions about my presentation from the participants that couldn’t divide themselves to attend this workshop 😉

Welcome to the Big Data workshop, we need women in Big Data!

This workshop is called ‘Discover Big Data’ because Big Data is a hyped word. It is being used for anything where data is involved, but it still remains confusing as what it means.

  • You are also in Big Data  if you are dealing with data that has to be processed at great velocity, as is the case for GPS or for mobile phones.
  • You are in Big Data if you cross information that come on a variety of formats, like your customer’s transactions and your customer’s emails, or if you go to the social networks, like Facebook or  Twitter.  You can discover what are the topics being discussed, what is being said about your company or  who is talking about your product.
  • You are in Big Data  if you’re exploiting one of the many big available datasets like weather information, official administration records like property records or  financial information, economic indicators…

What can be done with Big Data?

It is mainly used for customer intimacy, discovering your customer profiles and target them on a one to one base. Finding their preferences and the hidden patterns to predict customer churn.

It can be used for optimisation, finding patterns of systematic problems hidden in your historical data. It can help for organising your maintenance, or to improve the supply-chain, finding better logistic solutions, optimise processes.

It is also used for innovation: It can help you create your new product. Looking at your competitors and finding the white-spaces or uncovering market trends.

And more generally, with all the available data you can create models forecasting future events and behaviors. Through what-if analysis to predict the outcomes of potential changes, you can direct your business strategy. It helps anticipating previously unforeseen opportunities, as well as avoiding costly situations, finding new revenue opportunities or identifying more effective business models.

As you see, there are great business opportunities!

How can we do all that?

There are many techniques like statistical analysis, data mining, text analysis, sentiment analysis, graph analysis, machine learning, predictive analysis, neural networks, conceptual clustering…

You may have heard already some of those words that sound promising but that also sound very complicated. And even so, the Big Data field is growing exponentially as men are running for it.  There are only 10% of women, don’t you want to be part of it? Companies that took this wave are thriving, well ahead of classical business. They are proposing you the right product at the right time, with the features you are looking for, for the price you are willing to pay. They are  increasing their profits while shaping our future with the products and business strategies they are creating.

I hear you saying: This is great but I don’t know a thing about this and it sounds so complicated. I’m here to tell you that not all of it is that difficult.

YOU could be in Big Data.

If you are in computing you have a leg up. And if you like mathematics you’ll enjoy being a data scientist. But you could be in Big Data even if you are not a techy person.  If you are in HR, in marketing, if you are a manager or a decision-maker with the right mindset open to data, you can exploit the Big Data wave.

Even if you see the potential, women tend to think ‘it’s not for me, I don’t have the competencies’.

Let me use some feminine stereotypes to illustrate we have the basic skills:

  • We have a tradition of getting together and talking too much.  And we have a tendency to be matchmakers.  We can put those skills of information gathering and making connections to good use finding relationships between data.
  • Who recognises herself in this? We are control freaks and plan everything, even the time of our loved ones.  Don’t you have a TODO list for your partner on Saturdays?  I do: Love, since you are driving Alex to the scouts, could you please pass by and drop the trousers at the dry cleaner?  What if you knew what your GPS knows already, that a road is blocked?  You could have asked him to bring some bread back as he’s going to pass near the bakery.  Don’t you feel satisfaction when doing things efficiently, optimising the Saturday time? So imagine tapping into all the available information and using it to improve the processes, it’s a rewarding job.
  • And if you have artistic skills, visualisation is your field. This is a new branch of data science, they are creating new techniques very interesting to show more than 3 dimensions of data, so you can see easily relationships graphically.
  • Generally speaking, I think we women have a natural talent to be data analysts: the ‘What if’ comes natural to us, we always investigate all possibilities before deciding for one, isn’t it?

Summarising, we saw there is business in here, and that we have the basic skills to be in the Data business.

Moreover, it is important that more women move into this field, not only because of the many business opportunities, but also because there are ethical issues involved in Big Data. We can mention data privacy and price gauging as some of these issues, but there are other business models that can be controversial.

The rules of what can be done with the data and what is off-limits, are being defined right now.  Let’s not miss the opportunity to give our view on this.

As an example, there is a great initiative from the Data2X program of the UN, who’s doing a research on women’s freedom of movements through satellite images and their phone geolocation.  Are they limited in their movements in some countries, do they have access to education, to health care? Great initiative, but what about the same at a private level: is following the movement of your partner with her/his phone geolocation ethical? What about tracking the movement of your children, as it’s done already in some countries?

It’s important to have our saying in the ethical uses of all those lakes of data and be represented in the decisions that will define our future society. We, women, have a natural tendency of looking after our loved ones, taking their needs in consideration. That’s what Big Data is needing, people that set the rules for using the incredible amounts of data, taking into account the different perspectives and with a long term view in mind. It’s the moment to use our feminine voice to shape a better society for all of us, participating also in the creation of the new business models.

In this workshop you will hear success stories to show you the opportunities to be included in this field. I hope you’ll join the Big Data movement.

Pre-Crime unit for tracking Terrorists?

minority-report-11-3Due to last events in Belgium, the terrorist bomb attacks in Zaventem and Brussels, I couldn’t but remember the article from Bloomberg Businessweek talking about pre-crime: ‘China Tries Its Hand at Pre-Crime’.  They refer us to the film Minority Report, with Tom Cruise, that takes place in a future society where three mutants foresee all crime before it occurs. Plugged into a great machine, these “precogs” are at the base of a police unit (Pre-Crime unit) that arrests murderers before they commit their crimes.

China Electronics Technology company won recently the contract for constructing the ‘United information environment’ as they call it, an ‘antiterrorism’ platform as declared by the Chinese government:

The Communist Party has directed [them] to develop software to collate data on jobs, hobbies, consumption habits, and other behavior of ordinary citizens to predict terrorist acts before they occur.

This may seem a little too much to ask, if you think about it you may need every daily detail to be able to predict terrorist behaviour, but in a country like China where the state has control over their citizens since many decades, where they have no privacy limits to respect and a good network of informants…

A draft cybersecurity law unveiled in July grants the government almost unbridled access to user data in the name of national security. “If neither legal restrictions nor unfettered political debate about Big Brother surveillance is a factor for a regime, then there are many different sorts of data that could be collated and cross-referenced to help identify possible terrorists or subversives,” says Paul Pillar, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution.

See how now there is also a new target: subversives.  the article continues:

China was a surveillance state long before Edward Snowden clued Americans in to the extent of domestic spying. Since the Mao era, the government has kept a secret file, called a dang’an, on almost everyone. Dang’an contain school reports, health records, work permits, personality assessments, and other information that might be considered confidential and private in other countries. The contents of the dang’an can determine whether a citizen is eligible for a promotion or can secure a coveted urban residency permit. The government revealed last year that it was also building a nationwide database that would score citizens on their trustworthiness.

Wait a second, who’s defining what is ‘trustworthiness’, and what if you’re not?

New antiterror laws that went into effect on Jan. 1 allow authorities to gain access to bank accounts, telecommunications, and a national network of surveillance cameras called Skynet. Companies including Baidu, China’s leading search engine; Tencent, operator of the popular social messaging app WeChat; and Sina, which controls the Weibo microblogging site, already cooperate with official requests for information, according to a report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service. A Baidu spokesman says the company wasn’t involved in the new antiterror initiative.

So Skynet is here now (remember Terminator Genisys?). Even if right after a horrendous crime you can be tempted to be happy that this ‘pre-crime’ initiative is being constructed, there are way too many negative aspects still to consider before having such a tool. Like in which hands will it be, who’s defining what is a crime, what about your free will of changing your mind, to mention some.  Let’s begin thinking how to tackle them.

Alex Pentland’s article on Data-Driven Society

I recently got the new issue from Scientific American (October 2013), and in the front page was announced the article ‘The Data-Driven Society’ by Alex Pentland.  I just had to read it 🙂

He co-leads the World Economic Forum on Big Data and Personal Data initiatives.  He was talking about all the digital bread crumbs we leave behind on our daily life (like gps and gsm info, or electronic payments) and what can be done with it.

With his students of the MIT Human Dynamics Laboratory, he is discovering mathematical patterns through data analytics that can predict human behaviour. ‘Bread crumbs record our behaviors as it really happens’ he says, it is more accurate than the information from social media, where we choose what we want to disclose from ourselves.  Alex and his team are in particular interested in the patterns of idea flows.

Among the most surprising findings that my students and I have discovered is that patterns of idea flow (measured by purchasing behavior, physical mobility or communications) are directly related to productivity growth and creative output.

Analysing those flows, he uncovered 2 factors that have a positive pattern of healthy idea flow:

  • engagement: connecting to others, usually in the same team or organisation, and
  • exploration: going abroad to exchange ideas.

Both are needed for creativity and innovation to flourish.  To find those factors, he based his research on graphs of different types of interactions, like person-to-person, emails, sms..

We may not have the tools he used (like an electronic badges for tracking person-to-person interactions) but intuitively this is something we know, a good communication is essential for the success of a team, but talking to an external person may provide a new insight.  It’s always good to be proved right, isn’t it?

Check my next post, I’ll continue with his article, there are a lot of great concepts he is presenting as the ‘new deal on data’ for personal data protection.

 

Small talk on Big Data

Last week I presented this topic to professional women at PWI here in Brussels. It’s called ‘small talk’ because it is not a technical presentation but one for a broader audience, to create awareness on this Big Data trend.   The main concept I wanted them to take away is the change in the business arena and in our society due to Big Data. If you are interested on this subject, just drop a line and let me know!

Prices of discs and storage devices have dropped a lot, so now basically any digital data is being stored.  Cost is so low, that it is worth to save it ‘just in case, and we’ll see in the future what we can do with this data’.  Technology has made also  huge advances with massive parallel processing, and we can manage to jungle through thousands of servers to analyse a bunch of diverse data and extract information from it in a usable time-frame.

This allows business strategists to make smarter decisions based on facts, better than how it was done before, based on experience or intuition.  So the message for all decision-makers is: go and check your data, you’ll find there valuable information to decide any business matter.  Also, be aware that your competition is going into it too, it can out-smart you!

At the society level, there are many ethical issues to deal with, like privacy or equality and fairness.  What to you think, is it fair to have a subsidy that is ‘personalised’, that may give more to someone than to others because of a particular factor, or allow access to a health treatment to someone and not to another based on his life expectancy for example?  What about basing the decision on his ‘ROI’  like the capability of paying back for the given  treatment?  Or is it more fair to have instead equality on subsidies, same amount for everyone? Even for the ones that could pay it by themselves? Either we discuss them before-hand, or we will be at the mercy of any politician or entrepreneur taking a step deeper in an unethical direction.

And as a last twist, I would like to point out that the basic value of knowledge is challenged.  We are already experiencing a change of values, knowledge is less and less valued as an asset anymore, but value remains in knowing how to get to the knowledge,where to find it and what to extract from data.

 

CNIL Conclusions on Google’s privacy policy

Just a few days ago, the European authorities on Google’s respect of the European Directive on Privacy published their conclusion.  Basically they indicated that Google failed respecting essential principles of the Directive as  limiting the usage of the personal data, minimising the requested personal data and the right to object.

  • There is not enough information on the nature and usage of the collected data,
  • The way users can control their level of privacy is too complicated,
  • The data collected is not minimized for the purpose.
  • The retention periods are not specified.

As the CNIL  puts it:

..it is not possible to ascertain from the analysis that Google respects the key data protection principles of purpose limitation, data quality, data minimization, proportionality and right to object.[…]

Under the current Policy, a Google service’s user is unable to determine which categories of personal data are processed for this service, and the exact purposes for which these data are processed.

E.g.: the Privacy Policy makes no difference in terms of processing between the innocuous content of search query and the credit card number or the telephone communications of the user ; all these data can be used equally for all the purposes in the Policy.

Moreover, passive users (i.e. those that interact with some of Google’s services like advertising or ‘+1′ buttons on third-party websites) have no information at all.

On the combination of data accross services, the change Google just did, the CNIL says:

Combination of data across services has been generalized with the new Privacy Policy: in practice, any online activity related to Google (use of its services, of its system Android or consultation of third-party websites using Google’s services) can be gathered and combined.

The European DPAs note that this combination pursues different purposes such as the provision of a service requested by the user, product development, security, advertising, the creation of the Google account or academic research. The investigation also showed that the combination of data is extremely broad in terms of scope and age of the data.

E.g.: the mere consultation of a website including a ‘+1′ button is recorded and kept during at least 18 months and can be associated with the uses of Google’s services; data collected with the DoubleClick cookie are associated to a identifying number valid during 2 years and renewable

Here are the recommentadions they made to Google to tackle the combined data accross services:

  • reinforce users’ consent to the combination of data for the purposes of service improvements, development of new services, advertising and analytics. This could be realized by giving users the opportunity to choose when their data are combined, for instance with dedicated buttons in the services’ (cf. button “Search Plus Your World”),
  • offer an improved control over the combination of data by simplifying and centralizing the right to object (opt-out) and by allowing users to choose for which service their data are combined
  • adapt the tools used by Google for the combination of data so that it remains limited to the authorized purposes, e.g. by differentiating the tools used for security and those used for advertising.

But there is a good news for us citizens from this issue:

This letter [a letter to Google with the recommendations of the EU Data protection authorities] is individually signed by 27 European Data protection authorities for the first time and it is a significant step forward in the mobilization of European authorities.

Let’s hope next Google’s Data Privacy Policy will be soon here to adopt.

 

Internet interaction in the spotlight

Before, you should consider everything you wrote in Facebook as public. Now with Open Graph, the new application Mark Zuckerberg presented, everything YOU DO in Facebook will be public too.

[…]

First, Facebook observed that asking people to manually Like, Share, or Comment on content requires an extra step that actually inhibits sharing and interaction. Rather than introduce changes to the buttons, it will simply change the technical framework for apps within Facebook so that rather than requiring you to click to share, comment or express sentiment, the app automatically broadcasts a status update for you. For example, with the new Facebook and Spotify integration, simply listening to music automagically updates my News Feed (eventually my timeline). Depending on how much interaction it triggers, that activity may also show up in your News Feed.

So now you know. As your Internet Reputation is becoming increasingly important, be aware of the capabilities of the new tools!

Now, like in Quantum Physics, knowing that you are being observed may change your behaviour 🙂  Unluckily it also increases the stress of the person being watched.

Check the full article: Whoops, I didn’t mean for you to read this

Omniscient Facebook App “Sponsored Stories”

Read Robin Cangie in her article Facebook Doesn’t Need Mind Control to Control You

She compares Facebook’s new Sponsored Stories application to a panopticon, that is a circular building, originally designed for prisons, that allows outside observers to watch prisoners without their knowing. That creates a “sentiment of an invisible omniscience.”, as Wikipedia puts it

The concept is that you may be chosen to sponsor a story if you named a brand (the company will use you post to promote their product).  You know they may be looking to your posts, so your behaviour takes it into account… Not only Big Brother is watching you, all these companies too!

In UK, Home Office is deciding this 17th Dec. on data interception problem

Here’s an interesting bit from this article:  Home Office changes mind on data interception consultation

The deadline for the consultation has now been extended to December 17th, and the meeting with civil rights groups will take place this week.The Home Office is considering giving the Interception Commissioner, who deals with cases where companies have hoovered up the likes of surfing data without permission, the ability to fine much like the Information Commissioner.

However, while the ICO can levy penalties of up to £500,000, the government is talking about a limit of £10,000 for the Interception Commissioner. Jim Killock, head of ORG, calls that figure a “joke” and mere “pocket money” to big ISPs, and he’s quite right there.

Would you say this will be a good or bad thing?  How much could they get for selling the info? Will those small penalties stop them?