Engineering the Future of Software
16–18 October 2017: Conference & Tutorials
18–19 October 2017: Training
London, UK

Don't ask, don't tell: The virtues of privacy by design

Eleanor McHugh (Innovative Identity Solutions)
14:1515:05 Monday, 16 October 2017
Location: Blenheim Room - Palace Suite
Secondary topics:  Overview
Average rating: ****.
(4.25, 4 ratings)

What you'll learn

  • Learn how to design systems that store personal data because they need it, not because it's easy to collect, and that can explain how that data is used over time to demonstrate compliance with regulations


We live in a world of poorly protected persistent data silos, the digital equivalent of a rusty tin box tied up with string and buried in a somewhat disheveled flowerbed. The owners of these silos hoard a bewildering array of personal data on everyone who interacts with them on the off chance that some of this might be useful to them in the future or have concrete resale value. A vast industry exists to help secure these silos once they exist, but rarely does anyone asks the key existential question: do we need all that data in the first place?

In most cases the answer is no, and by collecting and storing this personal data we’re endangering both our systems and the people who use them.

Across the developed world, the outcry over high-profile data breaches has forced legislators to take action, introducing strict new regulations on how personal data can be stored and the rights of individuals both to control their data and to be forgotten. So how as IT professionals can we deal with this new reality? And what are the implications as the IoT expands the scope of personal data and new analytic tools make it increasingly transparent?

Eleanor McHugh offers an answer, exploring the relationship between privacy and identity, the slippery nature of consent, and how we can prove after the event that our applications acted correctly. Can we really design all this into our processing systems from their very inception? And if so, how?

Photo of Eleanor McHugh

Eleanor McHugh

Innovative Identity Solutions

Eleanor McHugh is the director of Innovative Identity Solutions. Ellie trained as a physicist but for the last 12 years has specialized in developing real-time software systems for aviation control, broadcast transmission, and network infrastructure. In recent years, her research work has taken her into the wacky world of next-generation internet technologies, with an emphasis on DNS provisioning, semantic networking, and the web as a middleware platform. Ellie is a vociferous evangelist for the Ruby way and a well-known, if often elusive, member of the London Ruby community.