Those Data are Mine(d)

The big change over the past decade has been the ease of attribution of specific data to particular persons, even if separate individual sources do not provide those relationships directly. Through sophisticated analyses and inference methods, today’s analytical systems can drill down to the level of the individual and have a high degree of confidence, though not total assurance, that persons and their attributes have been accurately matched. Unfortunately, as occasionally happens in the criminal justice system, for example, the wrong person is “accused” of owning a specific set of data, even when it is incorrect. This can arise from typographical errors, similarity of names, obsolete information, incorrect data, misinterpretation of facts, and the like. So not only do we risk intrusion on our privacy, there is a real and present danger of wrong identities, misrepresentation, misattribution and misinterpretation.

We need policies, systems and procedures that allow individuals to know the full extent of the use of their personal data, to verify that such data are correct and correct inaccurate information about them. This is required in some parts of the world, such as Europe, and should be a basic requirement everywhere. How are we to be able to stop abuse and misuse of our personal data if we don’t even know what data about us are out there and to what uses they are put?

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