At the 2016 IEEE 2nd International Conference on Collaboration and Internet Computing (CIC 2016) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this November, Star Ying and I will present a paper on Big Data Privacy (read paper here).
In this paper, we provide a simple description of something that should be obvious to most — there is no privacy when it comes to Big Data.
In the paper we describe the “as-is” state of the data privacy protection practice, and model the core of what constitutes Big Data. We then weaved the two worlds together using a probabilistic framework and take the framework to its obvious, natural conclusion.
This is the start of a critical discussion and introspection — one that we hope the community will engage in.
(This post is also available on LinkedIn)
As obvious as it sounds, the fact that different people have different histories and lived experiences, based on everything from the physical location where they grew up to the mentality of their parents and loved ones to the color of their skin, is an important and powerful one.
The obvious implication is that there are truths that may not be known to some that are as plain to others as the freckle on one's nose.
So, in an effort to share my experiences and shed some light on things that are obvious to me, I am starting a series of blogs called "Tales of the Obvious".
The first formal installation in this series is about the Human Resources (or HR) Department of your current or past company.
Technically, Human Resource Management - the function of the HR department - is to maximize employee performance as it relates to the employer's strategic objectives. The HR department primarily uses policies and systems to optimize the management and output of people in the organization.
Nowhere in the definition of the HR department's mission is there a focus on the well-being of the employee or acting on the employee's behalf.
Yet, many employees assume that the HR department is their advocate when it comes to issues with the organization.
Based on over two decades worth of experience interfacing with HR departments in corporate America, in academia, in the startup world, and in the Federal government, the only thing that I have found to be true about the HR department is that:
The HR Department exists to 1) optimally align an organization's human capital with the efficient execution of its mission, and to 2) protect the organization's interests. Currently, any trust that an employee puts in the HR department with regards to the HR department fairly representing them before the organization's leadership is often mis-placed and mis-guided.
I have heard five stories from my friends over the last three days. Though these interactions are not representative of the employed population of the world, I was shocked each time I heard a friend say that they expected HR to look out for their interests, when it went counter to what was good for the business and its leadership.
Social Experiment: Don't take my word for it, ask your friends about their difficult HR experiences and how they ended up.
More importantly, this truth leads to an opportunity and a growing need.
The field of Human Resource Management is perfectly positioned to go through a renaissance and evolve into a field that is more inclusive - marrying impartial mediation, with employee advocacy and employer priorities.
The time is right for Human Resource Management 2.0 or 3.0 - where empathy, compassionate and advocacy are cornerstones.
What do you think?
What other things are obvious to you that you think people around you are not fully aware of yet?
Write your own blog about it and share it with me.
(This post is also available on LinkedIn)
The following is an excerpt of a lightning talk that I gave at the 2015 Socrata Customer Summit on October 27th, 2015.
This is one of the modern miracles of the current age.
It is one of the most pervasive and most cherished devices, EVER.
Everyone has at least one.
And a lot of people, even those that won’t publicly admit it, have separation anxiety when they are away from one.
Just on this device, our ONE agency - the Department of Commerce - has had a huge influence.
The material standards for manufacturing rely on standards from NIST - The National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The Intellectual Property for the technology on this device is safeguarded by the USPTO - Patent and Trademark Office.
Your weather app relies at some point on data collected by NOAA - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Your stock app will show the impact of the GDP statistical release from the BEA - Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Telecommunications and spectra on these devices will most likely be influenced by NTIA - National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
The components in the devices are part of trade as advocated by the ITA - International Trade Administration.
The way an app or product is positioned geographically most likely have relied on Census Bureau data.
The startups that create software for this device have either directly or indirectly accessed resources from the EDA (Economic Development Administration) or MBDA (Minority Business Development Agency).
The majority of the bureaus of the Department of Commerce have had some impact on this one material aspect of your life.
And ….. All of that happens before lunch.
The Department of Commerce
This is why I can candidly say that the Department of Commerce is American’s Data Agency and I can say it confidently knowing that it is not an exaggeration.
Literally, the Department collects and disseminates data that extends from the surface of the sun to the deepest depths of the ocean.
The simple, yet powerful, mission of the Department is to create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity.
Additionally, the Secretary has seen it fit to create a startup of sorts within the Department focused on Data – this is the Chief Data Office.
And our mission is three-fold:
Today, I want to tell you about two initiatives that the Office is embarking upon.
The first is the New Exporters project.
New Exporters Project
I want you to close your eyes for a few seconds and Picture Stephanie – a small business owner – she manufactures furniture.
And she does it really, really well.
In fact she won awards at her county fair for her rustic designs.
She produces about 50 to 100 units of furniture per week out of her wood shop.
What if there were a way to provide Stephanie with the necessary market intelligence to enable her to determine where she should sell in order to maximize her revenue stream?
Imagine if one day, she receives a personalized recommendation on where to export.
A simple card or email could provide the average percent growth in revenue of similar merchants in other parts of the country.
If these merchants, who are like Stephanie, can do it, so can she.
Commerce data has the potential to unlock that market intelligence for small businesses.
And this is the goal of the new exporters project.
The second project is the Risk Models 2.0
Risk Models 2.0 Project
You get home from a busy day at work.
It is June and you are so tired so you park your car in your driveway.
You go inside. You play with your kids, eat dinner, tuck them in and wake up to find huge lumps of hail resting in the dents they have created in your car.
Wouldn’t it have been more efficient, less annoying and less costly, if your weather app could alert you when there is a high chance of hail and advise you to move your valuables indoors?
Maybe, it is your insurance provider that calls you to tell you to take evasive measures because they now have weather models built into their risk models.
Wouldn’t it be nice?
In both of these cases, one thing is very clear.
The power of Open Data, and more specifically Open Data from the Department of Commerce, lies in its integration and application to user-driven scenarios that improve lives and businesses.
I am going to end there (as I am standing between you and lunch) and I‘m going to ask you to do one thing.
As you are having lunch and making new friends, think to yourself:
“How can I help the Department of Commerce to help me?”
And send me an email
Thanks to Jeff Chen for helping with the framing of this talk.
I will keep this short; in order not to rant too much.
The sole purpose of this post is express my disappointment in things Jamaican.
Politicians who do what they decide they want to do - irrespective of the will of the people, irrespective of the damage and chaos that their actions will cause; irrespective of the generational hurdles that they are putting up for the nation's children (their kids are insulated) - is not what we are sold as people who elect "representatives" to advocate for our collective best interest.
There is no transparency in this Constitutional Monarchy that Jamaica resides in.
Are Jamaicans fully aware of the holdings, affiliations and (business) interests of their elected politicians?
Are Jamaicans fully confident that their leaders are doing what is right for them and not what is right for their own concerns?
Where is the accountability necessary to ensure that "elected service" is exactly that? Service to the people.
Has it all been tainted?
The Root Of It All - Corruption
I know you have heard this sankey before - over and over again - beaten to death - to the point where it does not phase you, it does not register, and everyone assumes that it is a part of life.
It is should never be a "natural" part of anything.
It is a bastardization of the system that the Jamaican public is sold as democratic.
Corruption is formally defined as "the use of public office for private gain".
I am not just talking about your grand-daddy's corruption here.
A bribe here or there to clear a barrel from the wharf.
A likkle pocket money to make some government process go faster or smoother.
All of these are well-understood and rightly identified as corrupt activities.
I am talking about more damaging and long-lasting acts.
Things like creating financial avenues that "seemingly" addressing public problems, while profiting from it in the back-end.
Things like manipulating financial markets, misinforming the Jamaican people and ensuring that your actions lead to profits for you and yours.
I am talking about systemic games that hurt millions of people for very long periods of time, but that are not illuminated and visible to the public (till the worse happens).
Can anyone in public office in Jamaica honestly and publicly say that you are not corrupt (by the generally accepted definition above)?
Everyone is at fault.
The Jamaican Media
The media is supposed to be one of the first countermeasures in our system - holding public officials, who have been entrusted with the keys to the country, accountable.
Where is the media on matters that are important to the present and future?
Where is the Jamaican media when it comes to investigative journalism?
Where is the media when it comes to being the objective arbiters of truth and what is good and right for Jamaicans?
Where is the media when it comes to representing the common youth and ensuring that their future will be better?
Unless you like sensational, surface-level discussions about the inconsequential.
Where is the media when it comes to shining a light on corruption and ensuring that Jamaica lives up to its promise?
When did journalism die in Jamaica?
When did the media give over its power to the elites and become their lapdogs?
When did this critical check-and-balance in the Jamaica governance process become ineffective?
Irregardless of the answers, it is time for a resurgence.
Time for the media to start fulfilling their extremely important mission.
However, there are a lot of parties involved; not just the media.
The Jamaican People
Light bills are now taxed.
The Road Traffic Act is in full effect.
National Housing Trust !!!!!!
The Cybercrime Act of 2015 seeks to make all Jamaicans potential criminals for just interacting and expressing themselves online.
The wholesale privatization of public Jamaica assets continues full steam ahead.
The Jamaican government still prioritizes international loan debt servicing over the needs and growth of its people and the local economy.
And what has been the reaction of the public?
A few rumblings here today. A few rumblings there tomorrow. Nothing after a week. Back to normal and their voice counts for nothing.
A horrible example of representational politics if I ever saw one.
The "Noise. Noise. Block Road" strategy has been "best in breed" practice in Jamaica since time immemorial.
It has also been wholly useless and ineffective for just as long.
How about the people trying different techniques to hold government and media accountable?
What about hitting them where it hurts?
What about investigating the behind-the-scenes deals that are really driving these initiatives?
What about naming and shaming the people involved?
What about finding the by-laws and statutes that can empower you to call people (representatives or other) on their bullshit?
What about real "grassroot organization" to educate, uplift and empower voters to be accountability barometers for the people they elect?
What about trying something different, something new, something unexpected, that the people who have the public trust would never expect?
Honestly, I don't know what will work, but I know a few million of us can come together and try a whole heap a ting.
The Jamaican Intelligentsia
At this point, I know I have lost a lot of you and that is fine.
I know I promised to be short and I think I am failing miserably at that too. Okay.
However, two more things before I sign off.
The most egregious of all the phenomena in the Jamaican ecosystem to me is the people that know better, but are just complacent and resigned to the status quo.
To whom much is given, much is expected.
It is through the shared sacrifice and labor of every single Jamaican that the Intelligentsia was and is able to get to where they are, whether they are still in Jamaica or in the diaspora.
Sure, you worked hard individually. Sure, you had the love and support of your family.
However, if you did not have the infrastructure, name-recognition and prestige that comes from all of us, even the ones you won't publicly embrace and or acknowledge, working together and making Jamaica the international power house that it is, then you would not be where you are today.
Let that sink in.
Now, think about how your complacency is helping make this ship sink faster.
Then think on how you can help fix the problem and do something.
The Effects of Unaccountability: Apathy and Powerlessness
I have the luxury of being an observer and an insider at the same time.
I am a Jamaican, who like many others, capitalized on education to increase the number of opportunities available.
I am forever grateful of my heritage and know that it is my responsibility to give back in whatever means I can (whenever I can)
This is why when it comes to matters related to Information Technology and Jamaica, I provide help (if asked for or not).
A few days ago, I provided my thoughts on the disastrous impact of the Jamaican Cybercrime Act of 2015 (click here for that post).
This advice was unsolicited. I am anti-politics and pro-people.
The reaction that I received from the blog post indicated that there is apathy and powerlessness in all segments of Jamaica when it comes to public policy.
"This does not apply to me"
"There is nothing I can do about it"
"The politicians will do whatever they want, no matter what I say"
These were sample responses.
It broke my heart.
If you cannot affect your future, then who can?
"If it's to be, It's up to me" - Source Unknown
Sweet Baby Jesus!!!!!
I spent the last few hours reading the 2015 Jamaican Cybercrime Act.
Though it is a relatively easy (36-page) read, let me spare you the trouble of wading through the legalese and mis-spellings.
The Cybercrime Act of 2015 seeks to address:
Additionally, the Act specifies legislation related to protected computers (Section 11), rules on inciting cybercrime (Section 12), and guidance on hindering or prejudicing cybercrime investigations (Section 13).
In an effort to include everyone in the fun, Section 14 addresses offences by corporate bodies. Further, the Act outlines actions that someone that is harmed by cybercrime (corporate body or individual) can take to get compensation from their "victimizer" or "offender" (Section 15).
At this point, you are saying to yourself "Sounds good to me. What is your problem, Ty?"
As usual, the devil is in the details.
I won't spend this post providing a sentence-by-sentence review of the Act (like I did two years ago when the Cybercrime Act of 2010 was under review. Those details are here).
For that detailed review, I am available for consulting via my security firm.
In this blog, I will only highlight the most glaring and mind-boggling concerns.
Lack of Awareness of the IT Security Profession and Education
Let me start off with the basics.
Sections 5 and 6 demonstrate a marked lack of understanding of the field of computer security and the fundamentals of training computer security professionals.
System administrators who install patches for zero-day exploits are normally warned that the patches may have unforeseen and untested impact on the rest of their ecosystem, which is typical of the field. Under these sections of the Jamaican Cybercrime Act of 2015, any system administrator who performs a security update is potentially in breach of the Act.
Another example is that of a system administrator, security professional or academic who needs to listen to and gather network traffic to detect security attacks; in order to spot and respond to these attacks and secure their systems. Under the current legislation, they could face prosecution.
Not to mention the fact that teaching the next generation of security experts becomes untenable in Jamaica under this Act; for fear of prosecution.
All in all, a bone-headed move if one wants to foster secure and private systems in Jamaica.
Or maybe I got this all wrong and these exceptions will be covered under an amendment of the Interception of Communications Act?
Nuh Run Nuh More Joke Roun Ya
The next point is so frustrating that I have to quote directly from the Act.
A person commits an offence if that person -
(a) uses a computer to send to another person any data (whether
in the form of a message or otherwise) that is obscene, constitutes a threat, or is menacing in nature; and
(b) intends to cause, or is reckless as to whether the sending of the data causes, annoyance, inconvenience, distress, or anxiety, to that person or any other person.
An offence is committed under subsection ( 1) regardless of whether the actual recipient of the data is or is not the person to whom the offender intended the data to be sent.
So, you are telling me that any politician or (rich) Jamaican who receives a text, email or other commnicae that they can interpret as threatening, obscene or menacing, may sue under this new Act (whether the message was intended for them or not).
Goodbye freedom of expression.
Goodbye, joking around (or ramping) with a friend in what may be subjectively interpreted as negative.
I am hoping that the intent of the Law, possibly cyberbullying or spam of online porn, etc, is different from the letter of the Law.
Right now, a lot of people are going to be in trouble.
This could also be a very effective way of shutting down a rival, whether political, business-related or other.
Everyone Knows What a Protected Computer Is
Section 11 mentions a "protected computer" and assumes that a reasonable person should know what a protected computer is.
Unfortunately, this is a highly subjective call that requires a judge to know the thoughts and mindset of an alleged offender.
Without having computers clearly defined and labelled as protected computers, this section is open to manipulation from the owners of computer systems that may argue (and defend) the "protected computer" status of their systems.
Overall, a horrible way to craft Law.
Where are the 'agreed upon" standards?
What is universally understood?
Is there a definition of "Protected" that is clear to everyone?
Is there a "Data Protection Act"?
From section 10 onwards, it gets progressively worse, because the rules build upon the previous sections, which we have already gone through and declared as bone-headed.
Section 12 states that if you and your friend are running a joke on another friend and it mistakenly gets to the wrong person, then that person can charge both of you under this Act.
We all know what happens when you build a house on sand.
*Shaking my head*
Protect The Lawyers
Section 13 is the only section where there is an explicit call-out for what it means to "not commit an offence". Of course, it stipulates the cases where lawyers are not liable or covered under this Act.
Why wasn't there a call-out for IT security professionals and academics in previous sections?
All a Unnu is Fi Wi
This final point is what infuriates me most.
From the Act:
22.-( 1) This Act applies in respect of conduct occurring
(a) wholly or partly in Jamaica;
(b) wholly or partly on board a Jamaican ship or Jamaican aircraft;
(c) wholly outside of Jamaica and attributable to a Jamaican national; or
(d) wholly outside of Jamaica, if the conduct affects a computer or data-
(i) wholly or partly in Jamaica; or
(ii) wholly or partly on board a Jamaican ship or Jamaican aircraft.
Translation: If you are Jamaican or if you are accessing "stuff" in Jamaica, it does not matter where in the world you are, you are governed by this Cybercrime Act.
I leave you to think through the impact of this.
Spoiler Alert: All Jamaicans wherever you are, you are screwed.
I am extremely disappointed in Minister Paulwell and his team.
You can do better.
The Jamaican people deserve better.
All you have to do is to include a Computer Science professional in the drafting of Acts like these to advice you on the feasibility of these rules.
Or maybe you want this Act exactly as it is.
Readers, what are your thoughts?
The National Day of Civic Hacking (NDCH) started in 2013. Its mission is to engage the community in solving civic issues.
The event brings together urbanists, civic hackers, government staff, developers, designers, community organizers and anyone with the passion to make their city better.
They will collaboratively build new solutions using publicly-released data, technology, and design processes to improve our communities and the governments that serve them.
Anyone can participate; you don’t have to be an expert in technology, you just have to care about your neighborhood and community.
On June 6, 2015, thousands of people from across the United States will come together for National Day of Civic Hacking.
The U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Small Business Administration, BusinessUSA and the U.S. Department of Labor have joined forces to host an event in support of the National Day of Civic Hacking in Washington DC.
The goal is to make open data more useful to small business leaders in your local community.
This Saturday, stop by and help support the backbone to the American economy. More details here.
Source: O*NET Team. May 4th, 2015
O*NET (Occupational Information Network) is the definitive list of occupations in the world.
It is common folklore, that "on average, O*NET updates only around 100 occupation codes annually". The innate researcher in me was always curious about this. Luckily, this was clarified for me early last week in a meeting with the O*NET team.
It turns out that this misconception is a product of horribly-handled communication and the need to simplify what is a complex issue.
The team produced the chart above, which documents the updates to O*NET occupations since 2003.
Light blue represents the number of occupations "comprehensively" updated by the O*NET survey. "Comprehensive" means that all the main components of the occupational profile were updated.
Dark blue represents the number of occupations that had some element of their O*NET information updated. These changes come from sources other than the survey, e.g. analyst ratings, customer & professional association input, government programs, transactional data, and Web research.
In 2010, 123 occupations were updated via surveys, while the remaining 874 occupational profiles of that year's total (997) had profile elements updated via non-survey methods.
So, all the occupation descriptions are updated every year.
What are your thoughts?
Many, many years ago, I read The Tools - by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels - and ever so often I reflect on the concepts they presented.
One of the principles they presented that stuck with me is that of Jeopardy.
Not the well-known American game show; but going back to the word's traditional interpretation.
If you look in any dictionary, jeopardy is defined in one form or the other as "the danger of loss, harm, or failure".
Your job is in jeopardy.
Your life is in jeopardy.
Your freedom is in jeopardy.
We should all be familiar with this.
Phil and Barry framed the idea of jeopardy in an interesting context.
Imagine that you are looking at yourself as you lie peacefully in a bed as you take your last remaining breaths on Earth.
Are there things that you wished you would have done? Skills that you have not used? Passions you have not let surface?
If so, then use this as motivation - to ensure that you maximize every single second - to be the most authentic version of YOU possible.
The idea is that when you are take your last breath, you want to have no regrets. You want to feel complete.
The reality is that we all have a limited another of time in this form; and a lot of gifts and talents.
Jeopardy forces us to look carefully at ourselves and ask "Am I using my gifts and talents effectively?"
Use this feeling of jeopardy to appreciate the urgency of life - the urgency of your decisions, the urgency of what you are doing now, the urgency of what you could be doing.
Use this feeling of jeopardy to ensure that you are doing the best thing possible - right now - that maximizes you and that makes you happy.
The next second could be your last.
What will you tell the YOU standing over yourself as you go?
How many regrets will you have?
On Jeopardy day ......
Jeffrey Chen, a fellow Presidential Innovation Fellow, R expert, and all-round amazing human being, took a few hours out of his spare time and created a cool visualization of the diversity data of the CENSUS.
Is anyone surprised that?
Yes, I am aware that the Census has an interactive map.
However, this very focused visualization tells a specific story and highlights what most are afraid to confront.
What is your take on the data?
I am going to make this short, because Robert Reich has already said what needs to be said in this space (here).
My role here is to punctuate the obvious.
Let's start with what people believe.
The "Free Market"
The formal definition of a free market goes something like this:
A market system in which the prices for goods and services are set freely by consent between sellers and consumers, in which the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government, price-setting monopoly, or other authority.
A free market economy is a market-based economy in which prices (for goods and services) are set freely by the forces of supply and demand and gravitate to their point of equilibrium without intervention by government policy. It typically entails support for highly competitive markets and private ownership of productive enterprises.
Free markets are also often associated with capitalism. However, the concept has been championed by anarchists, advocates of cooperatives and socialists.
Sounds Good To Me. (What is Your Problem, Buddy?)
I agree. It sounds wonderful and fanciful. And it is exactly that.
Apart from the assumptions that are made in the definition of free market, which do not exist in any country on Earth, people in societies that embrace free market capitalism also assume that the "free market" is natural, not man-made, inevitable and not influenced by the government.
This means that the outcomes of the "free market", i.e. inequality, poverty, insecurity, famine, war, etc, is beyond our control.
This is all fiction.
At the core, the “free market” is a set of rules that specify:
The rules defined above are a mere subset of the complete set that go into creating a "free market".
These rules do not exist in nature. They are creations of the minds of men (and women).
Markets are not “free” of rules. The rules define them.
As citizens of a democratic society, we have a say in the "free market".
We help define the rules in a number of ways, including voting governments into power,
Government help to organize and maintain the rules that create the "free market".
Let me repeat this for emphasis: Governments don’t “intrude” on free markets. They facilitate free markets.
But? But? But?
Ask yourself why there is no longer a (public) market for African slaves, why young children are not delicacies at your favorite restaurant, why urine-inspired beverages are not all the rage at your local watering spot or why your water supply is not filled with faeces and bacteria.
Now, own your part in creating and evolving our "free market".
Now, realize that you are responsible for the consequences of the "free market" (as it exists today). Yes, you share responsibility for inequality, poverty, crime, homelessness, etc.
Let that sink in.
Now, do something positive about it.
Dr Tyrone Grandison
Executive. Technologist. Change Agent. Computer Scientist. Data Nerd. Privacy and Security Geek.