#privacy: Obama discusses big data and the importance of respecting privacy

Barack Obama, has sent out a clear message about the risks of failing to treat data privacy with the respect the issue deserves.

Addressing audiences at a tech conference in San Francisco this week, the former US president went to lengths to describe the obligations on corporate shoulders to deal with Big Data in a responsible and ethical way.

“We have such an information glut now. So much of it is opinion wrapped up as fact, or selective facts to evoke emotions,” said Obama.

“With a digital fire hose of data, compounded by decisions that require rapid-fire responses from the White House, any person or organization needs a diversity of viewpoints as well as “a process you have confidence in” that properly sifts and sorts data,” he continued.

In what audiences around the world will, no doubt, see as a reference to the current president’s fondness for shoot-from-the-hip tweeting style, the former supremo said:

“What I would advise is to not watch TV or read social media,” before conceding that Obama’s democrats had been among the early adopters of new technology tools for presidential campaigns in 2008.

“We did a lot of data analysis on deploying volunteers, turning out the vote. I benefited from an entire war room of folks who developed high-level skills from Silicon Valley. We understood the benefit of Big Data, good data. So we thought, how do we infuse that into the federal government?”

“We had a lot of discussion about what health data sets were appropriate to share without violating people’s privacy. It is the least efficient system we have but accounts for one-sixth of the economy,” Mr Obama said.

He went on to underline how Big Data could be used to reduce waste in healthcare in the US, as well as relieve problems such as traffic congestion which blights San Francisco.

Commenting on Obama’s views, Steve Wright, CEO at Privacy Culture Ltd told PrivSec Report:

Privacy is now, and has always been regarded as one of world’s most treasured rights. Obama is right to call out the issue of data ethics, especially in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

“Good organisations are taking this subject seriously, understanding the close correlation between trust, transparency and at the same time delivering privacy.

“The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the world’s most advanced privacy framework, designed to help protect individuals rights, and if done well, can help an organisation to fully realise these data assets.”


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