It has been reported that some people are stealing data about tigers in Indian wildlife reserves, raising concerns over data abuse.
Wildlife data tracking used to rely on field observations recorded by experts. However, the lack of standard formats makes it difficult to process such data.
Fortunately, technological advancements in tracking systems, such as the global positioning system (GPS) and other digital sensor devices, have made large, continuous and high-frequency data sets available.
These new technologies have made data collection, storage, evaluation and visualization a lot more easy. However, they have also increased the risk of data misuse.
The importance of information sharing in the push for innovations has been recognized by many people.
For example, geospatial data is essential in wildlife research, particularly in the study of animal behavior, habits and demand. Such research is used in animal conservation and prevention of disease transmission.
But there is always a need to prevent big data abuse while extracting the benefits of data mining.
While some animal monitoring centers have fully opened access to their real-time geospatial data, others only provide a small fraction of their data for fear that the data could be misused.
To solve this problem, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with Open Algorithms (OPAL), which makes a broad array of data available for inspection and analysis without violating personal data privacy.
OPAL also allows the repository owner to control raw data: only aggregate answers or “safe answers” are returned. The system can also stipulate that data must be in an encrypted state while being transmitted and during computations.
Data security is the cornerstone for innovative development in big data. I believe technology is the best solution to tackle data security issues, not more stringent regulation.
How to best utilize data resources while protecting individual privacy presents a great challenge, but it is also a great opportunity.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 10
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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