Big Data, Part 1
We leave a digital trail behind us everywhere we go: the calls we make, the emails we send, the links on which we click, the websites and documents that we retrieve. This also includes our social relationships, habits, preferences, even our movements in space and time. IDEAS, CBC RADIO ONE in partnership with the MUNK School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto weighs the opportunities, the risks -- and the trade-offs -- as the world of Big Data relentlessly changes our lives. Part 2 airs Monday, October 17.**This episode originally aired June 23, 2016.
BIG DATA, Part 1: The Promise and the Perils of Big Data for Business, for Consumers, and for Society
Anita M. McGahan, Professor of Strategic Management at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto; Ashkan Soltani, independent researcher and technologist specializing on issues relating to privacy, security, and behavioral economics, and former Chief of Technology for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington DC; John Weigelt, National Technology Officer, Microsoft Canada; and moderator Stephen Toope, Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs consider the consequences of Big Data as it changes business -- and our lives -- for better and for worse.
Big Data, Part 1 was recorded in front of a live audience at the Munk School of Global Affairs on May 9, 2016. Listen to the Question and Answer session which followed the panel.
"The sheer amount of data today - about all of us - is so vast, it's so BIG, because we live so much of our lives online."
-- Anita M. McGahan
"I think the impact to consumers and the impact to society as a whole resulting from Big Data and from the presence of all this information creates an incredible transformation and an incredible risk for people. I don't think a lot of people understand how things are changing and how much data is being collected and who really has access."
-- Ashkan Soltani
Ashkan Soltani is an independent researcher and technologist specializing in privacy, security, and behavioural economics. His work draws attention to privacy problems online, demystifies technology for the non-technically inclined, and provides data-driven insights to help inform policy. He's previously served a brief stint as a Senior Advisor in the White House and as the Chief Technologist for the Federal Trade Commission, advising the commission on its technology related policy. Ashkan was also recognized as part of the 2014 Pulitzer prize team for his contributions to the Washington Post's coverage of National Security issues. He was also the primary technical consultant on the WSJ's investigative series: "What They Know", which was also finalist for 2012 Pulitzer Prize. Ashkan lives in Washington, DC and loves Japanese ramen.
"Just over 26 years ago, they launched the Hubble telescope and it provided us a whole new perspective of that ever-changing expanding universe of matter around us. Big Data promises to do the same thing: to transform our lives by giving us a new perspective of that ever-expanding universe of data around us. It changes every aspect of our lives."
-- John Weigelt
Professor Stephen J. Toope is Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs. Before joining the Munk School in January 2015, Professor Toope was President of the University of British Columbia from 2006 to 2014. He represented Western Europe and North America on the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances from 2002-2007. He continues to conduct research on many aspects of international law and is currently working on issues of continuity and change in international law, and the origins of international obligation in international society. Before joining UBC, Toope was President of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and Dean of Law at McGill. A Canadian citizen, Professor Toope earned his PhD from Trinity College, Cambridge, his degrees in common law (LLB) and civil law (BCL) with honours from McGill University, and graduated magna cum laude with his AB in History and Literature from Harvard University.
From Anita McGahan
- Beth Noveck talk: This talk gives a brilliant description of what is possible with Big Data as distinct from small data.
From Ashkan Soltani
- Federal Trade Commission Report, Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion? Understanding the Issues, Jan 6 2016: The US Federal Trade Commission regularly issues reports outlining the consumer protection and privacy issues stemming from emerging technologies. This report, which I helped author, highlights some of the key considerations for businesses as they embrace Big Data.
- The Whitehouse, Big Risks, Big Opportunities: the Intersection of Big Data and Civil Rights, May 4 2016: This report explores the potential ways Big Data can impact civil rights, both in terms of helping to detect bias and promote fairness, as well as highlighting the risks involved, particularly in how technologies can deliberately or inadvertently perpetuate, exacerbate, or mask discrimination.
From John Weigelt
From Anita McGahan
- Tim Berners-Lee on data ownership: A crucial issue facing businesses that seek to build on big data is ownership. Who owns the data itself? This article by Berners-Lee describes the issues and what's at stake.
- McKinsey report on Big Data: Despite the fact that this report is several years old now, it still stands as one of the best comprehensive descriptions of the impact of Big Data out there.
From Ashkan Soltani
- Dave Eggers, The Circle, 2014: While this is fiction, it's consider by some to be one of the more accurate accounts of the life and culture in the many nameless technology firms that are sprouting up all over the world.
- Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story, 2011: Fantastically entertaining read about love in an era of big data. Written only 5 years ago, it takes place in a near future that will be very familiar to most.
From John Weigelt
- Nicholas Carr, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, W. W. Norton & Company; June 10, 2013.
- Tony Hey, Stewart Tansley, Kristin Tolle, The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery, Microsoft Research; October 16, 2009.
The Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto brings together the best minds to advance the latest thinking on global issues. Its mission is to integrate research on global affairs with teaching and public education.
**Big Data was produced by Sara Wolch
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