May 20, 2018

              Technology implications of political trends

              The tech industry has a broad range of political concerns. While I may complain that things have been a bit predictable in other respects, politics is having real and new(ish) technical consequences. In some cases, existing technology is clearly adequate to meet regulators’ and customers’ demands. Other needs look more like open research challenges.

              1. Privacy regulations will be very different in different countries or regions. For starters:

              All of these rules are subject to change based on:

              And so I believe: For any multinational organization that handles customer data, privacy/security requirements are likely to change constantly. Technology decisions need to reflect that reality.

              2. Data sovereignty/geo-compliance is a big deal. In fact, this is one area where the EU and authoritarian countries such as Russia formally agree. Each wants its citizens’ data to be stored locally, so as to ensure adherence to local privacy rules.

              For raw, granular data, that’s a straightforward — even if annoying — requirement to meet. But things get murkier for data that is aggregated or otherwise derived.

              3. Data anonymization needs to be credibly and reliably solved. Reliable data anonymization, in principle, could moot multiple conflicts, including:

              But doing so will be extremely hard.

              4. Transparency will be demanded, in multiple forms. For starters:

              We more or less know how to do that part already.

              But where things get really messy is in the area of “black box” algorithms. People are concerned about potentially-untrustworthy automated decisions in many areas, such as:

              In principle, I stand by my opinion from 2012: When consumers lose trust in algorithmic decision makers, it can be at least partially regained by a shift to translucent modeling. But the mathematics of accomplishing that seem — as it were — rather unclear.

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              2 Responses to “Technology implications of political trends”

              1. Fazal Majid on May 20th, 2018 4:43 pm

                Another point: most databases, specially analytic databases, are not optimized for DELETE statements (or their NoSQL equivalents). This will have to change.

              2. David Grover on May 21st, 2018 9:58 am

                There’s an immense generational shift coming too. My spouse and I have both worked in what you might call the “personalization technology” industry. Our teenage children think that’s an appalling thing, not unlike selling cigarettes to minors. My youngest even argued the other day I had an ethical obligation *not* to do what I’d described as a fairly routine customer MDM operation.

                Our kids have listened to us talk about personalization their whole lives, so they’re liberal when it comes to the possibilities. Their friends are not. In ten years, whether the regulatory framework reflects their desires or not, the opt-ins from that generation will be thin and traded for dear.

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