Beyond the Build


No Secrets.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a dinner where Alessandro Acquisti of Carnegie Mellon spoke on privacy issues related to the web and how “big data” is changing things for the better…and worse.

Since the Internet and social media came along, it seems we share more personal information than ever before. There are plenty of upsides to this, but it also can open the door to violations. Alessandro gave the example of using facial recognition software to identify a person, find publicly available information, and then infer private information like a social security number. A maze for sure.

He also shared that privacy is not necessarily about having something negative to hide, and even well-meaning transparency policies can be misdirected. I would imagine people had the same kind of fears when the combustion engine was invented for the auto, replacing the horse. To me, it is hard to wrap ones head around, but exciting, and the unknown can be a little scary. I try to approach with the knowledge that nothing is ever really private, and once on the Internet, it seems to live forever. 

If you have 15 minutes to spare, this TED Talk by Alessandro is worthy of your time. And while we’re on the subject of TED, if you do not already support the organization in your city, I would recommend it. We’ve been involved for a number of years, and continue to be impressed with the impact.

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Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.