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Big data documentary kicks off National Data Privacy Month

Screenings, lectures explore importance of data privacy awareness in face of rising Big data

The documentary “The Human Face of Big Data,” screened Wednesday in Salomon 001, “strikes a balance of all the good that can happen with the data that we collect and the evil content that could happen as well,” said David Sherry, chief information security officer for Computing and Information Services, who facilitated a question-and-answer session after the screening.

The screening was the first in a series of events for National Data Privacy Month, which spans from Jan. 28 to Feb. 28.

The film profiles several uses of big data, including a smartphone app that relies on accelerometer data when users are in cars to sense the location of potholes, as well as a neonatal intensive care unit that draws on big data to predict when premature babies will contract infections.

The movie also examines what it portrays as the “dark side” of big data, such as Target’s algorithm to determine when women are pregnant and the National Security Agency’s widespread wiretapping.

National Data Privacy Month, which was started by EDUCAUSE — a consortium that promotes information technology in higher education — is similar to National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which the University has participated in for more than a decade, Sherry said. The National Cyber Security Alliance lists Brown as a leader in cybersecurity, he added.

But National Data Privacy Month celebrations are relatively new, with the first national event in 2013. The goal of National Data Privacy Month is “to get the same impact that we do from cybersecurity awareness month with privacy issues,” Sherry said.

Learning about data privacy is important because “research has shown that when people are aware of these things, issues go down,” he said.

The Information Security Group will host two additional Brown Bag lectures on the same topic, “The Evolution of Privacy & Why It Matters to You,” Feb. 5 and Feb. 26.

It will also hold a screening Monday of “Rise of the Hackers,” a PBS production that delves into cybercriminals and cryptography.

Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that another lecture on privacy will occur Feb. 11. In fact, it will occur Feb. 5. The Herald regrets the error.


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