. . . the Empire would have won. A search of records would have revealed where Luke Skywalker was living on Tatooine. A more efficient collection and aggregation of Jawa records would have located the droids immediately. Simple data analysis would have revealed that Ben Kenobi was really Obi Wan Kenobi. A search of birth records would have revealed that Princess Leia was Luke’s sister. Had the Empire had anything like the NSA, it would have had all the data it needed, and it could have swept up the droids and everyone else, and that would have been that.
There is an important lesson to be learned from Star Wars: If you are trying to establish and maintain a ruthless Empire, you can greatly benefit from better data aggregation and analysis.
The Sony data breach is an exclamation mark on a year that is already known as the” Year of the Data Breach.” This data breach is the kind that makes even the least squeamish avert their eyes and wince. There are at least three things that this breach can teach us:
The FTC held a workshop this Monday about Big Data. The term “Big Data” is used everywhere these days, and depending upon who is talking about it, Big Data is either the hippest thing in the world and the producer of miracles that will save the human race, or it is the scourge of all evil and the doom of freedom and democracy. I think that neither is the truth, and I want to dispel some myths about Big Data:
Last week, the White House released its report, Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values. My reaction to it is mixed. The report mentions some concerns about privacy with Big Data and suggests some reforms, but everything is stated so mildly, in a way designed to please everyone. The report is painted in pastels; it finesses the hard issues and leaves specifics for another day. So it is a step forward, which is good, but it is a very small step, like a child on a beach reluctantly dipping a toe into ocean.