Friday 29 June 2018

Privacy: your data

At the Liberal Democrats Autumn conference I helped organise an ALDES (Association of Liberal Democrat Engineers and Scientists)  discussion session on privacy and security titled "Your data, your choice" .  The motivation for the session was that:
Government, business and our personal lives are increasingly driven by our personal data. Credit card transactions, location data, and health records have the potential to improve products, provide insight for policy making, and detect security threats. But they also challenge our notions of privacy, intimacy and autonomy. How can results from privacy research be translated into policy?

The session was chaired by Richard Gomer, a researcher in Meaningful Consent. The panellists brought expertise from the areas of publishing, computer science, artificial intelligent and security

  • Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye (Data Scientist and privacy researcher at Imperial College London)
  • Luc Moreau (Professor of Computer Science at King’s College London)
  • Yogesh Patel (Chief Scientist at Callsign)
  • Leonie Mueck (Division Editor at PLOS ONE.)

There are steps individuals, as well as local and national governments, could take to protect privacy through regulation and law on the use personal data, education and digital rights. The intent is to pursue this topic with Liberal Reform and the Liberal Democrat Lawyers Association.
An important aspect of the discussion is the impact of algorithms with access to very large data sets of personal information. This was the topic addressed at the Royal Society discussion over the 2 day (30-31 October): "The growing ubiquity of algorithms in society: implications, impacts and innovations".

This session was almost dominated by legal considerations but served to underline the challenges to regulation and the rule of law that arise due to technical advance due to the availability of personal data, commutation power and algorithmic innovation.  Technology may also provide a defence, especially for those aspect of privacy that are close to data security. The formalisation of secrecy following the seminal work of Claude Shannon during WWII allows a definition of an aspect of privacy to be  formalised in a mathematically precise sense. This can be implemented to give some guarantee that the use of your personal data does not impact (or bounds the impact on) your privacy.

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