My TED Talk: “Privacy by Design: Humanizing Analytics”

Some weeks ago I shared with you my TED experience (“My TED Experience; so much more than I expected“). Its taken a few weeks but I’m glad to say that the talk is now live on the TED Website for those that expressed an interest in seeing it. It can also be found on YouTube.

11 Responses to “My TED Talk: “Privacy by Design: Humanizing Analytics””

  1. Hi Marie:
    I enjoyed your talk, but I have some doubts regarding the way you describe your approach on privacy by design.

    On the implementation side, taking into consideration the example provided on employee sensitive data, I see difficult to enforce such rules, when such data can be leaked through unstructured data, like for example taking pictures and copying it to ah-hoc documents, independently if there are rules that define the source of such information cannot be disclosed.Unstructured data in form of fotos, video, constitute a challenge in the big data world, despite advances in intelligent processing algorithms.

    But more than discussing on rules, policies and alike, there is a foundation principle on what constitute what should be private. The definition of a concept, a domain, is a consequence of the surroundings, of the environment we live and the multitude of human principles and beliefs. What in a society can be accepted as a practice in other can be condemned.

    In your generations privacy it is not anymore what it used to be. Take for example the attitude of different generations how they expose their life in social networks. The concept of privacy is constantly being redefined to a point that can be transform into a matter of transparency, for example, sharing your taxes declarations if you are a politician. But much beyond this, is how youngsters deal with it. In the past kids interact in the street, today they are living in real time as much as they can. They broadcast their lives to his friends. As the younger generation that reach the labor market are used to be connected to information, the next generation will be in perpetual broadcast. Privacy will probably need to be redefined.


    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment Alberto. There is a lot in there, but let me just respond on a couple of points you raised.

      Firstly, let me jump to the end and totally agree with you that Privacy most definitely needs to be redefined; it’s the elephant in the room. This is why I talk more about transparency and permission (as an implementation approach) rather than privacy.

      Secondly, I would agree with you that in today’s world the structures that hold “data” (Internet, social networks, …) are totally porous and its close to impossible to keep data truly private, particularly when private facts can be inferred from non-private data. I was trying to hint at this with the point about “data leaking between people”. If we believe enforcing privacy is an unsolvable problem (at least practically) then all we can do is put structures around how we use/exploit that data (this is where transparency and permission enter). To steal the old philosophical question “If a tree falls in the forest and no-one is there to hear it, did it really make a sound?”, I could ask “if data exposes an insight and no person or system is there to use it, then did the insight really exist?” :-)

      Thirdly, the definition of what is private. Here again I fall back to the transparency and permission argument and suggest that we can’t assume we can make that decision for an entire population and different people must be able to choose for themselves.

      Now, I’m not suggesting that this conundrum is an easy problem to fix, quite the contrary. It’s probably the toughest problem of our time… Why? Because its not just a technical problem (although its clearly that), its also a philosophical, societal, cultural, and personal one.


  2. Hi Marie:

    Some more deep thoughts on the discussion from an architectural point of view


    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m with Marie on this in terms of individuals being in control of their own privacy permissions as a foundation principle. And yes, people will have to be continuously educated and re-educated in what this means as the consequences of different technical privacy settings evolve as well as analytic insights. In fact we see this with Facebook today where postings by Facebook users regularly advise on the negative consequences of different privacy settings. I’m sure even Facebook themselves would not have imagined some of these negative consequences.

    There is however a line to be drawn as to under what circumstances should the Enterprise or Provider be able to access data irrespective of privacy settings? In the corporate world the line is usually drawn at the point where the Enterprise may be under legal order to disclose. Usually this would be related to criminal activity. I think this is workable from an Enterprise perspective, and has been working like this for email disclosure for some time. However Governments administer the law and where the line might be drawn in the USA will differ from China, for example.

    I think the important point is that the horse has well and truly bolted in terms of trying to label digital artefacts as ‘private’ or not. By giving ‘control’ to the entity that is likely to suffer most from a privacy invasion, the individual, we avoid the bureaucratic nightmare that any 3rd party paternalistic design might try and come up with. The younger generation is doing the learning for us at the moment. It would be interesting to see some research on who is most actively managing their privacy setting in Facebook….my hunch is that it may be those just post their teenage years. Its all about learning and growing up.

    We still have some work to do on the exceptions though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comments Laurence. It’s going to be a tricky road to navigate in the coming years, but I’m really glad to see data scientists openly discussing the issues and trying to come to a solution that benefits the individuals and not just the companies that are using their data.



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