Twitter shakes up the big data supply chain

Some big news came out of Twitter late Friday night. The social media behemoth announced it will be cutting off “fire hose” access to its data and will no longer licence its stream of half a billion daily tweets to third party data resellers. Here on out Twitter will be using its own in-house data analytics team, a predictable shift considering the company’s 2014 acquisition of Gnip. The play revolves around the use of unfiltered, full stream Tweets and related metadata associated with the tweets, called “fire hose data”. The Gnip firehose product provides access to every tweet with a certain link or user mention allowing businesses to capture and analyze every activity and every publicly available tweet ever made through full real-time streams of public data from social networks. The announcement marks a shift in the supply chain of big data. Many companies use raw Twitter data for commercial purposes such as building products and analyzing business practices. Now Twitter will be in greater control of this ecosystem, by requiring these companies to deal directly with them. Prior to the change, mega data resellers such as DataSift, would provide data analytics services to thousands of businesses, who would then serve thousands more. Twitter will be terminating agreements with third party re-sellers of Twitter firehose data. In order to shift towards working directly with data customers, the company says it is transitioning towards having its data customers receive raw data for commercial use directly from Twitter. Twitter now has one less privacy issue to worry about. By consolidating and controlling its mega data, Twitter removes an additional risk of...

Who watches the watchers? Police body cams means we all do

Worry that the state is abusing its powers through surveillance of its citizens has been a ubiquitous and powerful theme in contemporary political discourse. Most recently it manifests around the Harper government’s Anti Terrorism Law Bill C-51 that would grant additional surveillance powers to the government over Canadian citizens. Older yet are ideas regarding a state’s use of force against citizens through the police. Roman poet Juvenal wrote quis costodiet ipsos custodies, or, who will guard the guards themselves? The question is indeed just as difficult to answer today as it was in the 2nd century. The past week’s media discussions about using police body cameras forces us to consider the privacy implications where everyone and anyone can “watch the watchers”. Over the past year hundreds of American law enforcement agencies have outfitted police officers with body-worn cameras. Most recent is Charleston, North Carolina, where a passerby filmed the killing of Walter Scott by a police officer who fired 8 shots at the man as he ran away. A number of cities worldwide use body worn cameras on police, both to protect the police and to prevent tragedies such as the one that occurred in North Carolina. Empirically, body worn cameras reduce complaints against the police. Such has been the case in the UK, where body-worn cameras are more common. The idea is being explored in Canadian media as well. The legal questions related to how the data from the cameras would be stored, managed, shared and destroyed is tricky. However, if government and law enforcement are going to use technology and metadata to improve oversight of criminal activity and...

Does genetic testing really need its own privacy law?

The latest news in privacy law is derived from what has become a unique, if not quirky gift. A do-it-yourself at home genetic testing kit that allows you to “get to know you”, your health and your ancestry. Several businesses currently offer the service - a personalized test kit providing information and tools for individuals to learn about and explore their DNA. After completing the kit and sending it back to the company’s labs with a saliva sample, you can view reports on over 100 health conditions and traits, discover inherited risk factors and how you might respond to certain types of medications. Through it you can learn all about your genetic heritage and any potential diseases or medical conditions for which you might be at higher risk such as cancer and heart disease. This is a lot of information, and probably more than you would ever want to share with your boss.   A Bill currently before the Canadian Senate aims to protect Canadians against the risk they may expose themselves to by taking a genetic test: being forced to disclose the results to employers, insurers and other interested parties. Bill S-201, named “An Act to Prohibit and Prevent Genetic Discrimination” (the “Genetic Non-Discrimination Act”) is sponsored by Senator James S. Cowan and seeks to legislate an explicit right to keep the results of a genetic test from others such as insurers or employers. On March 31, 2015 the Committee Report passed for consideration before the Senate Chamber.   The bill in its original form would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code. Section 2 of...