This week in data – 22nd November

The introduction of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is getting closer, and companies around the world are preparing for what will certainly be a massive shake-up in how they view and treat privacy.

While some Australian companies might be forgiven for thinking they can let this one sail by, a new piece at TechWorld reminds us that any company that handles data of European customers is forced to comply – or face massive fines.

So how can businesses prepare for these laws? This piece has a guide:

Understand the flow of data around and outside your business.

Too many businesses simply don’t understand the full journey of their information: where their data comes from, how it’s stored or whether they even have any Personally Identifiable Information in their servers. This is only going to become more complex as data sources surge in number, increasing risk.

Now’s the time to get on top of it, this piece argues.

“Organisations need to gain a broader understanding of the flow of their data through their business, its inputs, processing and output, if they are to prepare themselves for the GDPR.”

In other news:

The Australian tech market was a little rattled last week when Rod Sims, the head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, said the agency would be keeping its eye on algorithms that break competition law.

It gets more complex: Sims tells the Australian Financial Review that “the development of deep-learning and artificial intelligence may mean that companies will not necessarily know how, or why, a machine came to a particular conclusion”.

So what does this mean? At the very least, the ACCC is going to start changing the way it views data and information, and how it regulates the companies that use algorithms to parse them.

Bottom line: to stay on ACCC’s good side, start viewing data as a “joint asset between the consumer and the entity holding” it.

Meanwhile, NPR has a solid piece about network theory: the idea that while information and big data are great, it’s the networks they reveal that could be the key to solving massive problems.

The problem is that networks are complex, which scientists don’t particularly like because they can’t easily be broken down into simple problems. But big data can help: specifically because the way we share information has a parallel to the way information is shared in nature.

Here’s the real benefit: studying networks made of data allows people to find things they couldn’t before: like how diseases spread, or mobile phone network activity in the moments before a terrorist attack.

The rapidly developing understanding of networks has also allowed biologists like Neo Martinez at University of Arizona to map the response of an entire ecosystem to the collapse of a single species. Such advances give all the more reason for governments and large institutions to invest in data and creating networks – they could inadvertently find the answers to questions that are centuries old.

Worth a read:

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is in the middle of a digital transformation, and now says it’ll be looking to Netflix and data to understand viewing habits. SMH.

A big win for traffic: the city of Toronto will now share traffic data with navigation service provider Waze. The city gets real-time traffic data in return, which will hopefully lead to better navigation and town planning. TechCrunch.

Until next week.

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