During our Strata 2012 panel discussion on privacy and big data, Daniel Tunkelang asked whether inferring private facts from public data is an attempt to define a new category of thoughtcrime — an insightful question. This got me thinking about the intersection of thought, speech, and acts with privacy and big data.
Since the first human scrawled an image on a cave wall, the brain has been processing petabytes of data. Today, we’re passing through an historical threshold where big data is leaching out of our braincases into the disembodied cloud. For the first time in human existence, we can “think” outside of our brains. What does this mean for privacy, morality, ethics, and the law?
This is not just theoretical. Retailers know you’re pregnant before your family; your sexual orientation can be automatically derived from your friends list; and police can predict where and when crime is more likely to occur. So, if we can make these inferences, should we?
Thoughts may be inappropriate but the law doesn’t punish thought. When thought is translated into speech, it is protected to a great extent. Only when thought is translated to action might the law intervene. This talk will examine recent big data inferences in similar contexts of thought, speech, and action.
I hope to see you there!