Keeping Your Data Secure

Published January 30, 2022

Courses Mentioned in this post: Data Privacy and Technology
Series mentioned in this post: Harvard On Digital


"If you're not thinking about your privacy, you're becoming everyone else's product."

- Professor Jim Waldo

What do you think is the defining problem around technology today? Does "privacy" come to mind? What does it mean to be concerned about"privacy"?

A decade ago, it may have been inconceivable to consider how often your personal data is being gathered on a daily basis. And yet, today we're constantly being monitored. As an example, take a walk and note how many times you're being tracked: do you have a smart home device? Are you carrying a cell phone with you? Do you pass cameras on houses or businesses while you walk?

"We're dealing with large complex systems. It's easy to think about a simple little camera on your door, but it's backed up by a huge system with lots of interactions and lots of people involved in it." says Professor Michael D. Smith in an October webinar with Professor Jim Waldo and graduate student and PhD candidate Avriel Epps-Darling. Professor Smith continues to say that it's important to think about "how can these systems fail and not actually act in the way that you thought when you were designing them. People are using them for things that we never imagined they would be used for in the first place and that's typically how we end up with a privacy violations. It's not that people built the system to begin with to violate people's privacy, but it ends up being used in ways that were never expected by the designers."

"If you are offering a product, you really have to think hard about how much data you are gathering about the people who are your customers, how you store that data, and how long you keep that data retention." reiterates Professor Waldo. "[Data] is a valuable commodity and if you don't know how it's being traded by the people who are gathering it. then you really don't know what's happening to your personal privacy and autonomy." 

View the full webinar on the data privacy trade-offs and challenges here:

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