A deluge of rain welcomed the Personal team to Austin two weeks ago today. Armed with company swag and a passion for spreading the word about small data and our product, we went to battle with the weather.
As it turned out, SXSW Interactive was raining more than precipitation. Sessions and panels on data and privacy seemed to drop from the sky and made a splash, despite all the buzz around ‘ambient social’ apps. (Observation: these apps were probably the culprits behind draining smartphone power and subsequent hours wasted on searching for power outlets to recharge them.)
But I digress.
Here’s a quick look at a handful of the privacy- and data-related sessions that piqued our interest, including two led by our very own Shane Green and Tarik Kurspahic.
Placecast’s Anne Bezancon and Personal’s Shane Green teamed up to moderate a lively discussion surrounding the need for a Digital Bill of Rights “by the people, for the people”. The proposed rights, which apply to the “sanctity of the digital self,” are now available for public comment on ourdigitalrights.org. We welcome and look forward to your feedback.
Data experts from Reputation.com and MIT Media Lab explored personal data as a new resource with multi-billion dollar implications for our data-dependent world. To avoid the breakout of a war on data, they said, we need to create and raise awareness of a new user-centric ecosystem around the asset of personal data.
Privacy experts from the FTC, the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, Carnegie Mellon and TechFreedom discussed the central question: “How do we define ‘tracking’ and to what extent is it permissible?” Opinions ranged from staunch opposition to all forms of tracking to the belief that any sort of Internet regulation is impermissible.
The main takeaway? Because it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to reach a consensus on the definition and acceptability of “tracking”, creating tools that empower individuals to better control and monitor their privacy is all the more essential.
How can we protect ourselves, without overreacting, in the age of data abundance? Can we trust the market to deliver the appropriate controls and user education, or do we need regulatory intervention? These were the tough questions that representatives of the ACLU, EPIC and CNET debated, with the majority agreeing that more transparency is needed of companies that aggregate and analyze big data.
Personal’s Tarik Kurspahic provided insight on building privacy and security into every aspect of a company – and why companies should be motivated to do so, despite the challenges posed for small teams with limited resources. One message that resonated with the audience was that every employee in a Privacy by Design organization needs to think and act like a Chief Privacy and Chief Security Officer.
We encourage you to check out Tarik’s presentation on SlideShare.
Based on the volume of conversations around privacy and data–at SXSW and beyond–we predict that 2012 will increasingly favor companies that 1) adhere to transparent data practices and 2) shift toward a user-centric model that puts individuals in control of their privacy and data.