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July 8, 2013

Updates from the Forum


 Ryan Murphy: World Economic Forum – Rethinking Personal Data Project


Hello again from New York City, where life has been remarkably hot but overall enjoyable.

I have now been at the World Economic Forum for about a month, and things are moving along excitingly fast. These past few weeks have been spent immersed in the world of big data (and more specifically personal data).

I am working with the Forum to develop and implement a user-centric and contextually-driven policy framework for using personal data. I know that can seem both broad and confusing (largely my thoughts the first week or so), but it really all boils down to a shift from old thinking (meaning before “big data”), which was largely based on data ownership, to a new-world model, based upon data usage.

To understand this necessary shift in thinking consider the following example. When you sign up for a cell phone subscription you agree to let your mobile operator anonymously collect your location data in order to improve network efficiency. So now let’s say you’re the mobile operator, and you “own” all of this location data. You can imagine how many companies would love to buy geolocation data off you. Let’s say a big technology comes knocking, and wants to use the geolocation data to better target advertisements at consumers. Not exactly what the individual signed up for when they agreed to let you “improve network efficiency”. In this case the shift in context (i.e. the different situation in which the data would be used) does not fit the individual’s original consent, so no go. But then the City Transit Authority comes to your door, wanting to use the data to better route their buses based on population density. This falls under the same context (improving network efficiency), and so is fair to sell/share without getting further individual consent. Identifying these shifts in context is especially important in the case of a disaster, where you want information to flow as efficiently as possible. So while this example was a little bit long winded, I believe it shows how the same geolcation data could be acceptable or not in various scenarios.

Process Shot of Graphic Visualization in Adobe Illustrator

(Small) Process Shot of Graphic Visualization in Adobe Illustrator – Click to Enlarge

My hope is that some of this makes sense, and in the next week or two I will give a more comprehensive look at my role within the Forum’s personal data initiative.

In the meantime you can check out some of the graphic visualization / web interaction work I have been up to here.


Ryan Murphy


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