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6 must watch TED talks about data privacy

In these wide-ranging TED talks, speakers explore the ethics surrounding data, current practices, and how data could shape the world for the better.

By eleanor blackwood

Tue 02 Jun 2020

3 min read

"TED" big letters in front of computers/devices and security features concerning online data privacy

Data is fuelled by what we do, and the insights that our actions generate shape our everyday lives and social worlds.

For such a huge topic, it’s often difficult to know where to begin. So, we've put together a few of our favourite TED talks to get you started. In these wide-ranging talks, speakers explore data ethics, current practices, and ask the fundamental question: could we use data to shape our world for the better?

1) 'The Ethics of Collecting Data'


An analytics strategist at IBM, Marie Wallace grapples with a central question in big data: how do we maintain privacy while garnering valuable insight from data? This tension between individual rights and the potential for data to enrich our lives and inform social good is reconciled through her innovative ‘privacy by design approach’ implemented at IBM. A great listen for anyone considering how to be a frontrunner in responsible data practices.

2) 'What if our Data Could Be Protected Online?'


Data enthusiast and speaker Derek Banta questions the ease with which we give our data away online, multiple times a day. He touches upon the basic reasons for this, ease, convenience and a serious lack of alternatives for the average person. Fascinatingly, he argues that we should make privacy the business model: migrating from an ‘e-commerce world to an anonymous commerce world, or a-commerce world for short’. Food for thought for your next online order!

3) 'Using Corporate Data to Improve our Lives'


In this hopeful and detailed discussion, technology researcher Stefaan Verhulst takes us on a tour of examples of how big data collected by corporations have been essential in disaster relief, and how this could be just the beginning. Firm in his assertion that we need a new kind of data responsibility, he argues that there should be three pillars underpinning this new paradigm: a duty to share, a duty to protect, and a responsiveness to actually act upon the data and the insights generated from it.

Want to know more about this topic? Paul Conneally’s talk How mobile phones power disaster relief provides some great examples.

4) ‘How Data Brokers Sold my Identity’


Using personal anecdotes, discoveries and insights, as well as drawing upon academic research, tech journalist Madhumita Murgia explains how data brokers work. A fantastic speaker, prepare to be surprised and entertained. If you’re interested in learning more about how data profiling works, check out our blog explaining the ins and outs.


5) ‘Let’s Pool our Medical Data’


Providing a different perspective on data privacy, the founder of WeConsent.us and ‘Data Commons Advocate’ John Wilbanks deftly argues for the importance and potential of data sharing in science. Talking through the ethical and procedural steps to create an ‘open, massive, mine-able database of data and health and genomics’, he emphasises the need for a different approach to defeat some of humanity’s greatest health problems.

6) ‘Why Privacy Matters’


In this wide-ranging and erudite talk, the journalist Glenn Greenwald first discusses different ideas surrounding privacy- including the argument that we should only be concerned about privacy if we have something to hide- and then Edward Snowden. One of the first reporters to see the Snowden files, his perspective provides truly unique insights.


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If you’d like to know more about data, check out the rest of our blog.

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