IBM: Innovate responsibly

Organizations must think about new technology that can solve data privacy issues and comply with privacy policies, urges senior scientist.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

IT innovators need to increasingly work around privacy policies or risk public resentment, warns IBM's chief scientist of analytics.

Jeff Jonas, who is also an IBM Distinguished Engineer, noted that organizations need to adopt systems that "avoid consumer surprise".

"Whether it's a bank or the government, when somebody uses data in a way that a citizen or consumer looks at it and goes, 'What the heck?', that's a bad thing," Jonas said. "People revolt when they feel like there's a big surprise about what others are doing with their data."

If customers are not prepared for the way organizations handle data, their business will be attacked, he said. To avoid upsetting data owners, organizations need to put effective policies in place--polices that demonstrate transparency and how data is being handled.

Jonas explained: "The idea is, before you build it, think about what kinds of policies, oversight, law, audit logs, what kind of data you're going to put in it, what kind of data you're going to move and deploy in a way that is more privacy-protected," he explained.


Jeff Jonas, IBM's chief scientist of entity analytics

"I've a privacy strategist who works with me. Before I even tell the engineers an idea, I've already thought through the best 'level of goodness' of privacy. It's about responsible innovation."

To prevent mishandling of data, Jonas is working on a concept that involves immutable audit logs, where systems prevent anyone from tampering with evidence of wrongdoings.

At a broader level, he noted, the answer to the complicated equation of data-sharing today is "anonymization"--analyzing data while it is in an encrypted form so that even if the data is stolen, it is not useful to the person who stole it.

In today's information world, more than half of the data that is shared globally can be anonymized, especially in the financial services, government, healthcare and telecommunications sectors, he said.

Anonymization has its roots from a couple of decades back, when Jonas first developed identity resolution software for use in the Las Vegas gaming strip to ensure that only credible gamblers were allowed entry. Later, the use of identity resolution expanded, for businesses to counter the insider threat, ensuring that employees are not in cahoots with criminals or suppliers to gain financially from the companies.

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