Microsoft’s Mundie: Data Collection Fuels Need for New Privacy Rules

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2013-10-10 Print this article Print

However, with that comes the responsibility to ensure that all this data collection doesn’t unnecessarily infringe on people’s desire for privacy. Laura Schewel, co-founder and CEO of Streetlight Data, another urban data-collecting company, noted that while people are suspicious of governments collecting information—as illustrated by the reaction to what the documents released by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden revealed—they don’t seem to always understand that companies like hers collect much of the same data.

Microsoft’s Mundie has been promoting changes around both privacy policy and technology to address the new ways data is being collected and used. He said cryptographic wrappers and metadata could be used to give people more control in how their data can be used, and laws could be put in place to ensure that businesses and government agencies follow rules in the metadata that dictate how the information in used. And how large a legal penalty should there be for companies that violate the rules in the metadata?

“Personally, I’d say make it a felony,” Mundie said. “Otherwise, the penalty is too low to deter that behavior.”

On the technology side, the idea of digital rights management (DRM) that artists use to protect the use of their music, movies and other creations can be used as a starting point when talking about how people could begin to protect how their data is used, he said.

“Everybody is being observed and tracked in ways people haven’t even thought about,” he said, in arguing for the need in a new model concerning privacy.

A key part is creating ways for people to change their minds in how the data is used. A company may use data in a particular way today that a person is OK with, but that company may discover a new way to use it down the road in a way that person objects to, Mundie said. People should be able to opt out of those “emergent uses.”

He noted that there might be data in such areas as security, law enforcement and health care—for example, around vaccinations—that society will not let people opt out of because that information is needed to ensure the protection of society. Such exceptions to opting out must also be considered, Mundie said.



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