The Times Tackles Big Data with Our Friend Scott


“Corporate executives and privacy experts agree that the best way forward combines new rules and technology tools,” writes The New York Times’ Steve Lohr in Sunday’s column, “Big Data Is Opening Doors, but Maybe Too Many”.

Somebody’s been talking to Scott David…

In fact the article directly references OIX’s former general counsel, member of the OIX Advisory Board, and friend as an example of a thought leader as he works “to develop innovative contract rules for handling and exchanging data that insures privacy and security and minimizes risk.” Trust framework development at its finest.

While the innovative work of Scott, Sandy Pentland, and others is highlighted in the column, Steve Lohr takes a critical eye to the state of play in the emerging data market. The column draws the parallel between the 1960s fear of mainframe computers and their storage of personal financial information and similar consumer apprehension about the current rush toward Big Data. Rightly so.

Current internet identity markets are dominated by black markets and gray markets—best characterized by high volume and velocity data exchanges operating at the edge of regulation, and by proprietary “walled gardens” (whose data use is often no more transparent in gray markets). In these ecosystems users tend to have little to no control over their data and little to no visibility as to where their data flows.

There is a fourth ecosystem, however: open exchanges. Unlike the other three, open exchanges are predicated on transparency. Open exchanges include trust frameworks where technology tools are matched with best-practice rules that govern data flows, usage, and storage among other business, legal, and technical issues. And as trust framework federations develop, there is increasing demand to align federations to allow interfederated markets for data among trusted parties. That’s where the OIX comes in.

Our friend Scott David has described OIX’s roles this way:

Similar to the way that FINRA helps to support, normalize, and render reliable aspects of the trading in the securities markets, OIX is intended to help foster and normalize the interactions among stakeholders in online data/identity markets.  Just as FINRA does not decide the business plans or value propositions of the companies the stocks of which are traded on the securities exchanges, so too does OIX not decide on the value propositions and standards for products and services offered in the emerging data/identity markets.  The OIX listing service is an information exchange to enable stakeholders access to details of individual online data/information service offerings and a form of “visibility” of the broader market (just as much as the activity on the securities exchanges can now be surveyed by opening up the business section and looking at the tables of transaction reporting summaries).

We are in the requirements gathering stage of defining what the OIXnet listing service will look like in its prototype. A working hypothesis is that the transparency it will provide is a fundamental enabler of privacy in federated identity systems.  Data privacy is built on transparency; without transparency, privacy claims are subject to interpretation. By allowing stakeholders comprehensive, real-time access to the business, legal, and technical building blocks of trust frameworks, the OIX listing service will enable informed consent and choice.

Whether Big Data is in fact opening too many doors, time will tell. The OIX is working to make sure that when you open those doors, the light will be on.