Every year, the IT staff across the province of Ontario gathers together for a large conference. This allows the IT staff to share knowledge and learn from one another, resulting in betterment of student and faculty lives in relations to IT. This year’s host is Seneca College located in Toronto.
The topic of this year’s conference is on Big Data. Interestingly, I found many of my counterparts from other colleges were not verbal on the topic, primarily on how scary it is. I’ve been parroting myself with my colleagues at the college and the university as my audience for the last eight years, the amount of data available on the internet in relations to us would eventually allow companies to simulate us and our everyday lives.
The idea is actually very simple, if I know who you are, who your friends are, your pattern of relationships between you and your friends, your location, your friend’s location, the details on travel patterns on a daily basis, the travel patterns of your friends, and a few other pieces, including your social life shared on social media, I can predict that you and your friends will meet and you will do something. If I know where you live and I know you drive on a certain route daily to work, I can predict that during your work-week, you will be driving to work on the same route.
The more data there are on you that I am aware of, the more I can create a model of you and your patterns. Once I have collected enough data, I shall have the ability to simulate you based on the data I have just collected from you. That’s Big Data in it simplest form, a mere collection of data where is allows someone to look for a certain pattern and therefore create a model base on the subject of the data collected.
Many of my counterparts in other colleges either were too embarrassed to be verbal about this opinion or they have never consider the impact that this can have on our students. Think about it this way, our new generations are shaped and formed by the the corporations online. They are taught to use a search engine by a search engine. Their entire lives, starting from birth, where the parents post their pictures on social media, to when they are entering the workforce, LinkedIn. These children are the ones who may lose themselves should they be disconnected from the internet. Being the ever crazy Computer Scientist, a possible scenario I can foresee was perfectly described in the episode of ‘The Outer Limits’ the Stream of Consciousness. Therefore I have always consider a side part of my job to be the defender of student’s privacy. Actually, many of our recommendations always includes privacy considerations at Durham College, at least I can claim that for my team.
So, at the end of this ‘rant’ before going into the pleasures of lives section, I would like to quote Nora Young, one of the speakers as this year’s OCCCIO, ‘Beware of your digital exhaust!’.