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Data is cheap, but making sense of it is not

Wonderful WWW2010 keynote speech by Danah Boyd on privacy in social networks, social norms and the responsibilities of those developing the WWW.

Danah Boyd: As a community, WWW is the home of numerous standards bodies, Big Data scholars, and developers.  You have the technical and organizational chops to shape the future of code, the future of business, the direction law goes.  But you cannot just assume that social norms will magically disappear over night.  What you choose to build and how you choose to engage with Big Data matters.  What is possible is wide open, but so are the consequences of your decisions.  As you're engaging with these systems, I need you to remember what the data is that you're chewing on is.  Never forget that Big Data is soylent green. Big Data is made of people. People producing data in a context.  People producing data for a purpose.  Just because it's technically possible to do all sorts of things with that data doesn't mean that it won't have consequences for the people it's made of. And if you expose people in ways that cause harm, you will have to live with that on your conscience.

Privacy will never be encoded in zeros and ones.  It will always be a process that people are navigating.  Your challenge is to develop systems and do analyses that balance the complex ways in which people are negotiating these systems.  You are shaping the future. I challenge you to build the future you want to inhabit.


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