Author Archive

Trend #1: Digital Advertising Comes of Age and Continues to Propel the Growth of Data Brokers and Markets

By Mary Ludloff & Terence Craig

trend 1Authors’ Note: As promised, this is trend number one in our take on the top ten privacy trends or the more things change, the more they stay the same. Although similar to David Lettermen’s Top Ten lists, our list is not as funny (unless we get points for sarcasm). We would like to remind you that sifting through the media coverage, books, blog posts, and research studies has been no easy task and trying to understand how all of it fits into the larger privacy landscape has been even harder. Added to that, our list is sure to elicit a litany of trends that we missed. We certainly hope that it does and welcome your input in our comments section! Now, on with the trend number one!

It is safe to say that continued media attention (mostly negative) has not had an impact on the rising use of third party tracking mechanisms to collect personal information. According to the Web Privacy Census, an undertaking sponsored by the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, which measures and benchmarks Internet tracking over time:

  • The number of cookies discovered on the top 100, 1,000, and 25,000 websites are all significantly increasing. For example, in May of 2012 5,795 cookies were found on the top 100 sites and in October of 2012 the number reached 6,485.
  • The percentage of cookies set by a third party host was 84.7%. In other words, most of us are being tracked by a host of parties that we have no data collection agreement with.
  • The top trackers were BlueKai (the largest online auction marketplace), Rubicon Project (one of the larger real-time bidding systems that sells ad space on web pages), and Adnxs (the advertising exchange for advertising exchanges).


January 21, 2015 at 5:58 pm Leave a comment

Privacy and Big Data—Update on the Update

By: Mary Ludloff and Terence Craig

Privacy and Big DataWe’ve been promising an update to our book, Privacy and Big Data, since the just pre- and mostly post-Snowden era. When we proposed and wrote the book it was to fill a void. At the time, there was a lack of mainstream attention to the issues of privacy by the media and a lack of understanding of the issues and implications we all face in the digital world. As tech veterans of long standing, we have seen our world transformed for better and for worse by our industry. Much of the “worst” we chronicled in our book and at the time its release, many relegated our book and ourselves to the “foil hat” and “black helicopter” brigade.  Yes, that was a “we told you so” but we promise it’s the last one.

Then came the Snowden revelations which raised its own hailstorm of media attention, information, misinformation, and disinformation (primarily by our government officials, legislative leaders, and the President as well as the Prime Minister of the UK) on exactly how our data was being collected and what it was being used for. Cynics though we are, we wondered if digital privacy issues had finally reached a tipping point, that we would have a national conversation about civil liberties, how to fix FISA, what is the acceptable collection and use of our data by commercial and government entities, and moving forward, how our liberties and data could be protected from corporate and government spying. (more…)

December 10, 2014 at 5:02 pm Leave a comment

In a pii (Privacy, Identity, Innovation) Conference State of Mind

By Mary Ludloff

pii2014Although this year has been extremely busy for us, Terence and I always find time for this event: The Privacy Identity Innovation Conference.  Natalie Fonseca, the Co-Founder and Executive Producer of it, is the driving force behind its ongoing success. This year’s program focuses on:

“… the latest developments in areas like mobile, biometrics, the Internet of Things and big data. Learn about emerging trends and business models driving the personal information economy, and get guidance on developing strategies and best practices to build trust with your users.” (more…)

November 9, 2014 at 1:33 pm Leave a comment

Getting Value From Your Data Series: Who Is Your Target Customer?

target customer

By Mary Ludloff and Marilyn Craig

Welcome back to the second post in our series on how to get value from your data. As we stated in a previous post:

“Data, without the proper use of analytics, is meaningless. If data is the new oil, think of analytics as the oil drills—you need both to be successful.”

Of course, getting to “success” is not easy as anyone involved in an analytics project will tell you. This series walks you through our methodology on what it takes—from inception to proof of concept to implementation and deployment—to navigate project pitfalls. Now most of us have been involved with great analytics projects that answered no real need. In this post, we take a look at the customer, their pain points, and what benefits they may derive from your analytics project. In other words: Who is your target customer? (more…)

October 15, 2014 at 4:41 pm Leave a comment

Lessons Learned from the Google Flu Tracker—Why We Need More Than Just Data

By Marilyn Craig and Mary Ludloff

God we trustWe read an interesting paper and post about Google Flu Trends (GFT) and its foibles last week. The paper points out a couple of lessons that those of us living in the big data analytics world have learned the hard way but the dangers are worth revisiting as tools like ours (AnalyticsPBI for Azure) begin to move big data analytics into the mainstream of organizational practices. After all, our tool (and others like it) makes it easy and even fun for analytics junkies to use all those available zettabytes of data and answer questions that they’ve long wondered about. But the paper also reminded us of the dangers of ignoring the natural cycles of an analytics process that we talked about in this recent post. If Google followed the PatternBuilders Analytics Methodology, they might have avoided many of the errors that GFT is now spitting out. In fact, the authors of the paper point out that:

“Although not widely reported until 2013, the new GFT has been persistently overestimating flu prevalence for a much longer time. GFT also missed by a very large margin in the 2011-2012 flu season and has missed high for 100 out of 108 weeks starting with August 2011… This pattern means that GFT overlooks considerable information that could be extracted by traditional statistical methods.”

This overestimation is attributed to two primary factors: data hubris and algorithm dynamics. (more…)

April 9, 2014 at 6:15 pm Leave a comment

Reporting, Analytics, and Big Data: A Continuous Feedback Loop to Drive Better Decision-Making

By Marilyn Craig

LoopA recent conversation with a client reminded me that no matter how crazy and exciting the Big Data world gets, it is still critical to understand what your goals are and where you are in the process of reaching those goals. Having a good foundation in “what’s important” is critical before you jump into the wild world of Big Analytics.

For example, in big data (well, actually all data but I digress) “Reporting” and “Analytics” are very different functions. But I often find our customers and prospects grappling with how to distinguish one from the other and as a result, confusing reporting with analysis and losing track of their real goals.


March 2, 2014 at 3:07 pm 3 comments

New Year (2014) Rumination: Death of privacy as we know it? Or inflection point signaling better things to come?

By Mary Ludloff

Privacy DeadI am, and always have been, a glass half-full kind of gal. In fact, way back in September 2011 when Terence and I published our book on Privacy and Big Data, I was far more optimistic than he was on the future of privacy—of course, it’s easy to sound optimistic when your co-author states that privacy is dead. (And yes, we are still working on our book update but we do have day jobs and a significant release in the works so it is slow going but going it is.)

At that time, those in the “digital privacy know” characterized our book as a decent overview. Our intent at the time was to help those NOT in the “digital privacy know” get their arms around the privacy issues from a legislative, corporate, and government perspective. To our surprise, those not in the know included lots of folks in the high tech community! We did a number of interviews and dealt with informed and somewhat uninformed media folk—those in the mainstream focused on social media and those on the fringes (left and right) wanted to do deep dives into legal issues, government uses of data, and fourth amendment rights. Some seemed to think that we were members of the tin foil hat brigade, others that we were naïve, and still others that we were on point. (more…)

January 11, 2014 at 12:16 pm Leave a comment

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