Beyond data 2016: Dancing on the volcano of privacy

Eindhoven – More data we ever could imagine,  many opportunities and challenges, but what about ethics, what about privacy?  These were the topics of the Beyond Data Event 2016, hosted by the City of Eindhoven and Euroforum today.

The event was opened by Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau, who introduced the new term ‘ABBA’ in dealing with open data to the two hundred and fifty participants. ABBA standing for ‘Awareness, Believe, Belived and Action’. He also emphasized the importance of asking the right questions to create valuable data.

The amount of data available is increasing every single day, stipulated Rector Magnificus Emile Aarts of the University of Tilburg. As an example he showed the amount of websites at the moment. ,,Over one billion and the figure is increasing as we speak in a unpreceded speed.”  The rector presented the Grand Data Science Initiative of the Universities of Eindhoven and Tilburg in collaboration with the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch and the Province of Noord-Brabant which will educate people for ’the most sexiest profession of the future’: The data scientist.

Jane Macfarlane, the chief scientist and Head of Research of Here, the mapping platform who’s hiring at the moment a lot of people for their new office in Eindhoven, really went ‘beyond data’ and showed how much data a car in future will  process. About the road, weather, traffic.  Also she introduced the term of hyper locality. ,,Only by using hyper local information the data becomes valuable for me as a citizen.”


But with all this data, and data scientists to analyze them it brings new moral and ethical questions to the table. Not only for the governments, but also for companies, while at the same time the power of the more critical citizen increases. ,,,We are dancing on the edge of the volcano of privacy. On the edge are growing the most beautiful flowers but we shouldn’t fall”, as Carlo van de Weijer, director Strategic Area Smart Mobility of the University of Eindhoven put it. But Van de Weijer went on as a ‘technological optimist’. ,,We are at a point of no return.”

Also Frank Buytendijk, vice-president and Gartner Fellow elaborated in his speech about ‘digital ethics’. A research of Gartner showed that already 59 percent of the CIO’s are faced with ethical questions but have no place to debate them. He warned for a too strong believe in patterns and algorithms. As an example: a customer of Amazon who liked cooking and gardening and bought related articles online, got the suggestion to buy more useful products for a ‘drugs lab’. ,,Of course this was not the intention of Amazon but a mistake of the algorithm.”

The keynote of Catherine Bracy from Code for America brought the debate beyond the governments and companies or startups. Back to the citizens, who are with the help of open data solving problems in their city or neighbourhood. ,,We made super simple apps, which almost don’t cost anything and are easy to share. And people like it. They like to make things to help our governments to work better.” And the result is even bigger than that. ,,It will eventually restore the trust in the democracy.”

A viewed shared with vice-mayor Mary-Ann Schreurs of the city of Eindhoven. ,,It’s about creating things that matter. It’s about working all together. Everybody has to chip in.”  The vice-mayor also announced the winner of the ‘Living Data Hackaton’ which was won by The Open Politics Team who could not make a better closure of the event with the call for help: To make their solution even more better.

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