by Sue Geuens
Whenever I get to a conference or event where data geeks meet and talk, I can guarantee I will hear at least one person telling the others that personal data is growing exponentially. They will also comment that next year our data will doubled, or tripled or have grown by some insane margin. This sounds really great to me as a practitioner in Data Management. In fact, it sounds wonderful – positively going to keep me working for a very long time.
BUT – then I start to think about this from my own personal point of view. The future is not exactly that rosy. After all, this is MY data – my own, personal – not for public consumption data. And do I really want it to be “out there” in the wilderness somewhere? Especially where I am not in control of it?
A big fight then ensues with my Data Geek side cheering because I will be working for ages and my Data Owner side screaming for justice because I have NO idea even where my data is, how accurate it may be and who is using it for what strange or unusual purposes.
Neither side is winning this fight at the moment – but the Owner side is beginning to edge forward as the Geek side is seeing the point. Well, I guess I should say some Owners. Because it is obvious that in general, very few people have any idea of the amount of data that is stored about them. And I guess, that even those who do, probably don’t really have any idea of what can be done with the data that is being stored. How it can be used to profile them, their life, their work, their family – their likes, dislikes, etc.
However, I do know what can be done with my data, and although I am a Data Professional, I also am a person who has data stored all over the place. On balance, I would prefer to have my data protected, looked after and secure. I would also like to know where my data is – who has it, who they let view it, what “they” do with it and how they plan to protect it for me.
Guess that means that the personal side of me won this fight. Now I need to persuade the data professional side of me to start campaigning amongst other data professionals to take the privacy of data seriously. So why am I blogging about “where is my data?” Well partly it is to get other data professionals thinking about their own data, but it’s also to start a conversation on what we should be doing (as data professionals) to protect our own data – because I believe that if we think about protecting our own data, it would naturally follow we would then be protecting the data of others around us.
Now my next question is “what should I be asking organizations about my data?” I believe that as a basic, we should be asking what data is being stored and for what purpose. Secondly I’d like to know where you are keeping my data – is it in a secure place, who has access to it, do you ever send it outside your own secure environment, if so – to whom and why? Next I’d like to know if you have any agreements in place with other organizations to share data – if so, have you asked my permission, for what purpose are you sharing this data? Finally – I would want to lay down whether I want to give permission for my data to be used for any purpose other than what I believe the organization is supposed to be doing for me.
So my question to other data professionals is, “what are WE going to do about this?” My question to you, the reader is, “Have you thought about where your data is?” “What do you want to do about your data?”