The Secret Life of Data

Location: King's Suite
Average rating: ****.
(4.54, 13 ratings)
Ever searched for loose change down the back of the sofa? Ever wondered where all those odd socks go? Or the missing biros? How about the tea spoons from the work canteen? No? Well nor have I, much more important things to do after all. But I have searched for data in the cracks between software architectures, trailed people down the street watching them leak data, data that can tell me and others about their everyday lives, and mined unstructured data for their secrets. Big data isn’t just multi-terabyte datasets hidden inside eventually-concurrent distributed databases in the cloud. It’s also about the hidden data you carry with you all the time, data that is generated for you and about you, but not necessarily by you. Hidden data, your data, carrying on its secret life without your knowledge, but with your implicit and implied consent.
Photo of Alasdair Allan

Alasdair Allan

Babilim Light Industries

Alasdair Allan is a scientist, author, hacker, tinkerer, and journalist who has recently been spending a lot of time thinking about the Internet of Things, which he thinks is broken. He is the author of a number of books and sometimes also stands in front of cameras. You can often find him at conferences talking about interesting things or deploying sensors to measure them. A couple of years ago, he rolled out a mesh network of five hundred sensor motes covering the entirety of Moscone West during Google I/O. He’s still recovering. A few years before that, he caused a privacy scandal by uncovering that your iPhone was recording your location all the time, which caused several class-action lawsuits and a US Senate hearing. Some years on, he still isn’t sure what to think about that.

Alasdair sporadically writes blog posts about things that interest him or, more frequently, provides commentary in 140 characters or less. He is a contributing editor for Make magazine and a contributor to O’Reilly Radar. Alasdair is a former academic. As part of his work, he built a distributed peer-to-peer network of telescopes that, acting autonomously, reactively scheduled observations of time-critical events. Notable successes included contributing to the detection of what was—at the time—the most distant object yet discovered, a gamma-ray burster at a redshift of 8.2.


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