The Month in Data – January 2021

This month in data – January 2021

Each month we compile the best stories in data. Get up to speed on this week in data without having to search for it.


Teenagers are way too comfortable with data

Aren’t teenagers way too comfortable with…everything? We don’t know, but we do know this piece from Think about the ways young people interact with information markets is fascinating. The thesis is that young people – and especially in the past year – are way too comfortable with sharing data about themselves. It’s a false sense of security, it argues – and proposes “identity management” training for kids.

Probably good for adults, too.


“Hacks, identity theft, disinformation, misinformation and deep fakes are only going to increase in the coming decade. We need all users to help minimize the potential risks of our online lives, an initiative that can help protect my generation, their generation and future generations.”


The social dilemma

Okay, we aren’t really sure that 2021 has started off on a better foot than 2020 did. Or didn’t. But right out of the gate, we saw an attempted insurrection at the Capitol Building in the United States. Funnily enough, the social network on which many alleged insurrectionists organized their activity, Parler, suffered a bug. That bug allowed anyone to scrape all kinds of data – including photo location data that helped the FBI find suspects. 

Here’s a tip: if you’re going to create a new social network, make data security a priority.


“If a Python script can archive your whole user content with simple web requests, then you’ve got a serious architecture problem.”


Whatsapp forced into privacy change backdown

Earlier in January, the messaging apps Signal and Telegram attracted millions of users after Whatsapp declared a change in privacy rules: but the change actually only related to business accounts. A good example of how communication is just as important in data governance as the policies themselves.


“WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook in 2014, does share some limited data with Facebook, including phone numbers. However, the firm has reassured users that messages will always be protected by end-to-end encryption, which means neither WhatsApp or Facebook can see these private conversations.”


South Africa eyes a data-based education future

One of the most fascinating trends of the past few years is how different jurisdictions are taking leaps in ways to promote data-based education. South Africa is one of those. As The Conversation points out, the nation’s school system is preparing for a data-based future. But the best point comes at the end: when it comes to making data policy, all aspects of an economy need to work hand-in-hand, with industry and government working in sync. We’d agree whole-heartedly.


“Specific policies will have to be updated or developed to guide the use and implementation of data, machine learning and the wider spectrum of automated decision-making tools. These should govern how data is collected, handled and shared to balance relevant transparency, privacy and ethics principles and laws. Educators, policymakers, researchers and innovators in the sector all need to get involved.”


Fertility app settles over privacy breach

Medical records are some of the most valuable on illegal markets. They reveal a treasure trove of data, and unlock access to other pieces of information. Which is why the fertility app Flo has settled with the FTC in America over a promise it made to not share information – which it then did with other tech companies. That information contained fertility data. 

Yet another reminder that up-front data governance can save your organization both time, and money. 


“The Flo case is the first time a US regulator has ordered notice of a privacy action. The fact that it was approved 5-0 by the Commission, along with some statements from ranking members of the FTC, would indicate that the health apps market should carefully review its data sharing practices to avoid being the next target.”


That’s our wrap for this month. Thanks for reading – we hope you found it entertaining and informational. We’d love to hear your thoughts on these articles and anything else data related! Email us anytime at!

Until next month,

Team Data Republic

Request a demo

Fill out the form and a member of the Data Republic
team will get in touch to arrange a demo.

Get started with Data Republic

Fill out the form and a member of the Data Republic
team will get in touch to talk to you about your data project