Posts Tagged ‘Differential Privacy’

Cloud Computing – 2010

Friday, January 8th, 2010

cloudbin Just came across a good article on the future of Cloud Computing for 2010 – it’s a great summary and indicator of how fast things are progressing, you can read the full article here, but in summary, the following (in my opinion) are the three key areas to watch:

The year of the platform – after years of working through Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) and Software as a Service (SAAS)the coming of Platform as a Service (PAAS) marks the beginning of the realisation of the full benefit that the cloud approach has to offer.

Here Come Private Clouds – specially pertinent in the Public Sector, the information assurance requirements of governments and nations are driving an approach that sees the adoption of “national cloud” infrastructure.  This will challenge many of the cloud providers as issues around data sovereignty and legislation such as the US Patriot Act will force them to offer geographically local solutions (which is kind of counter intuitive to the purists architectural vision for cloud computing).

Security – What a surprise, the growth of cloud computing has lead to a new frontier to defend and secure.  whether it’s new concerns like Differential Privacy, or old “friends” moving to new platforms (the first cloud based bot-nets have recently been discovered).

Cloud Computing – What’s the Point?

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Back in the Summer, Matt Deacon asked if I’d like to give a presentation on the subject of Cloud Computing to an Architect forum he was planning in the UK for September. I said “yes” immediately because I was getting increasingly frustrated with all the hyperbole about Cloud Computing being “the Future of IT” when all that was really being said was about cost containment and greater agility and frankly I wanted to prove that there really was more to it than that.

So, several weeks passed, the deadline loomed, and I set out to prove my theory that Cloud Computing would enable some significant outcomes that would transform society’s use of technology. Take a look to see how I got on…

You can download the webcast here (right click and “save as”) or click here to subscribe to the Envisioners podcasts on iTunes.

This presentation uses the superb Productivity Future Vision video generated by Microsoft’s Office Labs team. You can find this video (and get the background and more detail) here…

Finally, you can also download the slides I used here – like everything on this site, they’re available for use under Creative Commons license, so feel free use them if they’re helpful to you, but please respect the copyright of the image authors (see last slide in the deck) and ensure you are licensed properly for their use.

Differential Privacy

Friday, October 9th, 2009

PrivacyEarlier this week I blogged about the growing evidence of governments opening up their public data at both a national and local level. While this in itself represents a great leap forward it brings with it a new set of challenges the we will need to address. One in particular stands out and it is around the evolution of some of the very real challenges we’re going to face around Privacy in a Web/Gov 2.0 world.

Earlier this month I was chatting to Stuart Aston (one of our security advisors – you know the type, smarter than your average bear and very switched on to the evolution of the security principles we will face in an increasingly connected world) and he introduced me to the concept of “Differential Privacy“. He left me with a few white papers and a smile and a few hours later, with my head pounding and eyes bleeding (trust me you want to try and read this stuff) I finally got my head around the concept and what it’s going to mean to us as citizens.

Differential privacy is essentially, the ability to make very specific conclusions (with incredible accuracy) about the identity of an individual when provided with two disparate sets of anonymised data on a similar topic.

The example given uses NetFlix’s recent competition to improve their recommendation system as the backdrop…


NetFlix published an anonymised data set of around 500,000 records in order to help developers come up with a solution to improve their recommendation system. Some bright sparks took this data and a similar export from the IMDB and by applying some fairly hairy maths, they were able to identify specific individuals with a shocking 96% accuracy rate.

This is mind blowing, not just because of the maths involved, but because of what it means in a world of growing public data, the old bastions of Privacy that we have relied upon thus far may no longer be enough.

Governments and organisations are going to need to take this seriously as it will present some difficult challenges about liability and the duty of care to keep their citizens/customers identity and data private.

In particular, think about the duty of care element. As an organisation, you have a legal requirement to look after the privacy of the data you hold on an individual or organisation – with differential privacy, how far does this duty of care extend? If you keep your data anonymised but others can compromise that privacy (albeit with hairy maths and more public data) who is actually liable or legally responsible for the breach?

There are some tough answers to be found here and undoubtedly some more legislation will be required – in the meantime though, it’s a concept we need to understand more so we can build appropriate responses that don’t restrict the overall movement towards making public data more readily accessible . We cannot afford to let this (and other similar issues) stop the democratisation of data, but we do need to go into this with our eyes open.