Tag Archives: data

Data strategy and digital identity

The Conservative Government promised to produce a White Paper on its ‘National Data Strategy’ before the end of 2020 – one of the many initiatives shelved or delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.  But digital issues offer both enormous economic benefits and considerable social and political risks, and technological innovation is opening up new advantages and dangers as time passes.  

Now that the UK has left the EU, there are divided opinions within our government about staying close to its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or loosening its restrictions to make it easier for security services to investigate and entrepreneurs to innovate.  So Liberal Democrat data scientists are looking at the issues raised and providing (much needed and welcome) advice to our parliamentary party.

Rob Davidson and an informal group associated with ALDES (the Association of Liberal Democrat Engineers and Scientists) have prepared a note on Digital Identity.  The current debate is far removed from the old concept of a national Identity Card, centrally-run by the government.  Many of us have had to prove identity, producing our driver’s licenses to prove our age, rattling off our NIC numbers, even paying notaries for verified copies of our passports to satisfy bank queries: using government-issued identifiers to satisfy private demands.  Poorer people don’t have passports, and a declining number now have driving licenses, so find it harder to prove age, credit or status.  

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The Great Hack: What we should take away

If you have  a Netflix account it’s likely you’ve already seen The Great Hack.  This near two hour documentary  details the Cambridge Analytica scandal and examines the wider issue of our rights to our data. For many Liberal Democrat campaigners and Pro-EU activists who have kept up with this whole scandal, what the documentary revels is not new  but it leaves us with a cause that should be a natural rally for the Liberal Democrats.  It creates a foundation for meaningful policy regarding the giants of Silicon Valley and how our democracy and use of social media can work in harmony with each other. 

The Great Hack hints towards a potential path for the party which links our belief in economic liberalism and property rights along with our belief in privacy and personal freedom. Currently the data which we willingly leak onto social media is just skin deep for the user but behind the curtain this data is valuable information for advertisers and campaigners to ensure that the ‘right’ advertisement on visible on your Facebook or Twitter news feed. Globally this can range from the harmless like a good deal for a tent on Amazon to horrific and extreme cases where military personal in Myanmar manipulated users  using Facebook to facilitate genocide towards the Rohingya people.

Every day in the UK we see thousands  drawn into arguments online  and very little room is left for compromise or compassion. To paraphrase Carol Cadwalladr, in an effort to connect people, these social media moguls have instead facilitated on driving us apart. This has allowed for a sense of invincibility of consequence to our words and a thin layer of anonymity where we dehumanise to an extent those we disagree with and pander to those we do. It is vital that the Liberal Democrats start to lead the charge on how we should be thinking of social media differently as this is now here to stay and will be (already is in some cases) a central part of our lives.

 To start we need to explore the idea of breaking down Facebook’s monopoly of social media as Sir Vince Cable has mentioned in the past. Even though since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke Facebook’s users took a very minor hit, those same users appeared to just simply switch to Instagram which is also owned by Facebook. Secondly we must be fighting now for a major review of our electoral law and its relation to social media especially after the Culture Committee expressed the current laws are not ‘fit for purpose’.

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Martin Horwood writes…The real issue about Trump, Facebook’s ‘data breach’, why The Observer missed the point and Liberals should care

The Observer‘s front page today lays into Facebook for a massive ‘data breach’ in which 50 million Americans’ data were harvested by the infamous Cambridge Analytica and used with great effect to target Trump messaging at US voters. They “built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons” their whistleblower Christopher Wylie is quoted as saying.  It was a powerful tool for a campaign based on fear and paranoia.  Little surprise then that Cambridge Analaytica is also being investigated by the Office of the Information Commissioner and by the Electoral Commission in the UK in connection with their work on the Brexit referendum.

But the main Observer story oddly misses the point. It focuses on how long it took Facebook to own up to the ‘breach’ and suspend Cambridge Analytica’s access to the service.  It describes the accessing of the data itself as “one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches”.

But it wasn’t.  And that’s not the importance of this story.

Anyone can harvest data from the web.  I harvest it when I can’t remember someone’s birthday or their kids’ names.  The Lib Dems harvest it indirectly when they use targeted Facebook advertising.  My engagement team in a previous job harvested it using smart algorithms to find possible engagement targets, ironically, to promote better data, openness and transparency.  The point is that all this information is out there and – a point confusingly referred to in the Observer piece – platforms like Facebook don’t regard it as their data but their users’ (“it may be data about people who are on Facebook that they have gathered themselves, but it is not data that we have provided”).  Facebook’s suspension of CA appears to be because of technical breaches to their terms of use, particularly the sale of data to third parties.

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Daily View 2×2: 14 January 2010

Good morning afternoon and welcome to Daily View on a largely uneventful day in history. 152 years ago today, Napoleon III wasn’t assassinated. It’s the day Martin Niemöller was born, the author of the words about Holocaust victims, “First they came for the communists, but I was not a communist so I did not speak out.”

Today Richard Briers, Faye Dunaway and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are celebrating birthdays, and we remember Lewis Carroll’s death.

2 Big Stories

Haiti victim search

All the papers lead today with news of the continuing search for survivors amongst the debris following the massive earthquake in Haiti.

Times: Race against time for Haiti earthquake aid
Telegraph: Race to save thousands of lives
Daily Mail: Haiti razed to the ground: Horrifying new pictures reveal extent of earthquake destruction
Guardian: International teams join Haiti rescue operation

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