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Privacy in the Age of Big Data: Recognizing Threats, Defending Your Rights, and Protecting Your Family

Privacy in the Age of Big Data: Recognizing Threats, Defending Your Rights, and Protecting Your Family

5.0 1
by Theresa Payton, Ted Claypoole, Hon. Howard A. Schmidt

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Digital devices have made our busy lives a little easier and they do great things for us, too – we get just-in-time coupons, directions, and connection with loved ones while stuck on an airplane runway. Yet, these devices, though we love them, can invade our privacy in ways we are not even aware of. The digital devices send and collect data about us whenever we


Digital devices have made our busy lives a little easier and they do great things for us, too – we get just-in-time coupons, directions, and connection with loved ones while stuck on an airplane runway. Yet, these devices, though we love them, can invade our privacy in ways we are not even aware of. The digital devices send and collect data about us whenever we use them, but that data is not always safeguarded the way we assume it should be to protect our privacy. Privacy is complex and personal. Many of us do not know the full extent to which data is collected, stored, aggregated, and used. As recent revelations indicate, we are subject to a level of data collection and surveillance never before imaginable. While some of these methods may, in fact, protect us and provide us with information and services we deem to be helpful and desired, others can turn out to be insidious and over-arching.

Privacy in the Age of Big Data highlights the many positive outcomes of digital surveillance and data collection while also outlining those forms of data collection to which we do not always consent, and of which we are likely unaware, as well as the dangers inherent in such surveillance and tracking. Payton and Claypoole skillfully introduce readers to the many ways we are “watched” and how to change behaviors and activities to recapture and regain more of our privacy. The authors suggest remedies from tools, to behavior changes, to speaking out to politicians to request their privacy back. Anyone who uses digital devices for any reason will want to read this book for its clear and no-nonsense approach to the world of big data and what it means for all of us.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Payton (founder, Fortalics, LLC, a security, risk, and fraud consulting company; former White House CIO) and Claypoole (cochair of the Cyberspace Privacy and Data Security Subcommittee for the American Bar Association's Business Law Section) intend this book as an overview of the threats facing private citizens in the era of cloud computing and big data. Discussions of privacy in this time take as their departure point the problematic nature of cloud-based computing and of the storage of massive amounts of personal data by businesses, governments, and devices connected to the cloud. The threats reviewed include those associated with mobile access and tracking individuals' locations, Internet viewing, and the ubiquity of cameras as peripherals on devices. The final section details mitigating risks to individual privacy and reviews legislative efforts that could help. VERDICT Well-researched and well-written, this timely and important addition to the literature on privacy and big data will resonate with researchers of information policy and related legislation.—Jim Hahn, Univ. of IL Lib, Urbana
Publishers Weekly
Former White House Chief Information Officer Payton and lawyer Claypoole, authors of Protecting Your Internet Identity, team up again to produce this quick and easy overview of data collection and its relevance in our everyday lives. The authors guide readers through the many ways our personal information is collected and used in today's society. They are quick to point out the beneficial aspects of technological advancements in commercial, private, and government settings. However any collection of personal data is susceptible to malicious use. The authors go on to elaborate on the everyday possibilities of hacking, wiretapping, and other big data strategies by marketers and cybercriminals. Most alarming are the implications of data mining for everyday citizens, cybercriminals can and will steal any information, through government or commercial enterprises. Payton and Claypoole provide practical tips and tools for protecting personal data throughout making this a perfect beginner's guide for anyone looking to stay informed. (Feb.)
Midwest Book Review
Privacy in the Age of Big Data: Recognizing Threats, Defending Your Rights, and Protecting Your Family provides a powerful reference focusing on privacy in the digital world, and is a fine pick for any who would consider the ramifications of how data is collected, stored and used. Current practices have created a level of data collection and surveillance never before used: while some of these methods are justified by protection and new services, others intrude on civil liberties. This book considers the pros and cons of new digital surveillance systems and analyzes the dangers of information tracking, offering readers insights into ways we are tracked, and how to change behaviors and activities to regain more privacy. It's an in-depth discussion that should be a part of any social issues or computer science library, offering much food for thought.
Information Today
Payton and Claypole highlight the pros and cons of Big Data collection and illuminate the many areas of data collection that are still largely unknown to the general public.
Michele Borba
People of all ages are increasingly confused about who is collecting their data and why the collection itself could lead to a loss of privacy. Privacy in the age of Big Data by Theresa Payton and Ted Claypoole provides a thoughtful and balanced view on how to harness the power of big data to make it work for you while maintaining the security and privacy of your company and your personal life. Unlike other books, they don't just leave you feeling a sense of dread, they walk you through the steps you can take to combat the threats, know your rights, and protect the privacy and security of your loved ones in the age of big data and surveillance. This book is a must read for all of us that live in this digital age.
Sue Scheff
The Pew Internet Research Center noted that 74% of teens use their cell phone for internet access and almost 25% of teens use cell phones almost exclusively to conduct their digital life on the internet. Parents and kids need a guide in the digital age and Payton and Claypoole are your new sherpas to protect your family. Although every chapter of the book has great advice for families, parents and kids should pay special attention to Chapter 6 - The Spy In Your Pocket. This chapter will help parents illustrate to their kids why their words and actions matter. Privacy in the Age of Big Data by Theresa Payton and Ted Claypoole will walk you through the solutions that can help your kids have fun while protecting their privacy and security. A must read for everyone!
Doris Gardner
If you value your privacy, this book is an absolute must read. So many of us have no idea how much of our daily lives is captured, stored and in the possession of someone else. Privacy in Age of Big Data will enlighten you as to how much of your private life is being digitally acquired without your permission or knowledge.
Anthony M. Freed
Once again, Theresa Payton and Ted Claypoole have provided a thorough examination of the unforeseen consequences that our plunge into the digital age has had on our traditional notions of privacy. Their latest endeavor, Privacy in the Age of Big Data, clearly articulates the impact that a myriad of seemingly innocuous technological advances have had on our daily lives, many of which have irreparably undermined our ability to control the deluge of personal information that is being collected, archived, analyzed, and ultimately leveraged for everything from marketing and advertizing to law enforcement and criminal activities. Payton and Claypoole look beyond the obvious ramifications of over-sharing online and the spread of surveillance mechanisms in the public domain, further delving into the corrosive nature of a world inundated with privacy depriving technologies that now touch every aspect of our society, as well as providing an analysis of the legal and political consequences that our desire for convenience through ever more connectivity has wrought. Privacy in the Age of Big Data is a timely and captivating study of our brave new digital world.
Christopher Duque
Privacy in the Age of Big Data: Recognizing Threats, Defending Your Rights, and Protecting Your Family, accomplishes this feat in lay person's language and in a clear and concise manner. I recommend it should be read by everyone - from grandparents to teens, from corporate America to the homemaker. Safety and security starts with being aware and educated, and reading this book is a must!
Shawn Henry
Technology has improved our lives dramatically over the past two decades, yet there are emerging concerns with the ubiquitous digital collection of private information. Privacy in the Age of Big Data is a thorough look into the growing vulnerabilities we face; Payton and Claypoole explore all aspects of these dangers...effectively raising the reader's awareness, and providing solid recommendations to protect yourself and your most sensitive information.
Peter Swire
Every informed American needs to know more about today's privacy-invading technologies and what to do about them.This book explains the problems in a readable and lively way.It provides expert and timely insights about the technology, law, and policy for privacy in this age of Big Data.
the Daily Show Jon Stewart
[Data] tracking can always be used by nefarious individuals or groups, but it is part of the way we live now. It is as though highways were also fraught with piracy. That’s the kind of thing we’re dealing with. This is the discussion of the era, and this book is smack in the middle of it.
The Daily Show Jon Stewart
[Data] tracking can always be used by nefarious individuals or groups, but it is part of the way we live now. It is as though highways were also fraught with piracy. That’s the kind of thing we’re dealing with. This is the discussion of the era, and this book is smack in the middle of it.
Fox Business The Willis Report
I think people out there don’t realize there’s this whole underground economy out there, knives and daggers, people out there trying to get any piece of your data at any cost and at the end of the day we’re the ones who will pay the price. . . This is great advice.
Berkeley School of Information datascience@berkeley Blog
Privacy in the Age of Big Data is a valuable source of information, no matter how much you know about cybersecurity; for those who are just starting to protect their data, however, you won’t want to let this book out of your sight.
Archives and Records: The Journal of the Archives and Records Association
Privacy in the Age of Big Data is a timely publication and one that should find a wide readership in a digital and online landscape that is often only partially understood. As archivists, managing digital data and navigating the cyber world is increasingly important, and this is also true of our social lives. When at work there is a level of protection, or perhaps control, by our employers’ infrastructure: IT services manage and monitor our email and intranet, passwords must be regularly changed or account access will be suspended, security scanning is undertaken as a matter of course, and born-digital material, both published and unpublished, is treated with all the complex care and attention warranted by such vulnerable items. At home the picture might be somewhat different. Reading this book has compelled a change in this reviewer’s digital habits at home and at work, providing the impetus to take charge of my digital and online life. Further, it has opened up my understanding of the digital landscape, providing insights and prompting research into new areas that can only be of service in my role as an archivist. In a cyber world as complex as the one here described, a prompt to attend to the many connected issues both in and out of the archival world is a valuable outcome. This book serves to accentuate the problems and pitfalls of data management in a digital world, whether that data is found in our bodies, homes or in the archive. It provides a thoughtful and readable consideration of the complex interaction of the digital and physical spheres, highlighting the many dangers but always providing practical means to increase understanding, develop useful strategies, and mitigate potential risks.

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Privacy in the Age of Big Data

Recognizing Threats, Defending Your Rights, and Protecting Your Family

By Theresa M. Payton, Theodore Claypoole


Copyright © 2014 Rowman & Littlefield
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4422-2545-9


The Intersection of Privacy, Law, and Technology

Privacy is crucial to protect and support the many freedoms and responsibilities that we possess in a democracy. The law is society's primary method of protecting and enforcing our ability to exercise our rights—if a basic human right is denied, then the law should provide recourse to reinstate it. Unfortunately, our society has reached a point at which the law cannot keep up with the advancement of technology and the constant change technology brings to our lives. Those technological changes are important and helpful in many ways, but they are overwhelming our system, and our privacy is the canary in our technological coal mine. If the law can't keep up to protect our privacy, then the technology whirlwind may affect many of our important rights.


Although it seems that every day fewer people care about their privacy, the ability to maintain parts of our life as private remains crucial to our democracy, our economy, and our personal well-being. Many people expose their deepest thoughts and barest body parts every day, leading pundits to decry that privacy is passé. Others suggest that the only people who would care if the government, the press, or even their neighbors are watching them are those people who are behaving badly.

These positions entirely miss the point of privacy. Privacy is not about embarrassment or bad behavior; privacy is about choice. In many cases people who expose their ideas or their derrieres online choose to do so. In those cases in which people were exposed through someone else's choice, such as a reporter, the people exposed felt that their privacy was violated. Similarly, when the government watches your every move, sooner or later it is likely to find something objectionable.

Over time, the government and society change their definitions of what is acceptable and what is not, so staying on the right side of the law and society's standards is not always as easy as it seems. Recently, a car insurance company has been advertising a service in which it provides a small monitor to record and analyze the way that its insurance customers drive every second that the customer is in the car. The company markets this technology as a "cool" advance that allows good drivers to benefit from reduced rates. However, the company never promises to use consistent standards for what it considers "good driving," it never promises in its commercials not to turn its customers in to the police for speeding or running red lights or driving in restricted areas—all actions that could now be recorded and analyzed. The company never promises that the device's information will not be used against a customer in a trial following an auto accident, by the other driver, or by the insurance company itself. The company doesn't discuss whether it will find one incident of questionable driving behavior—maybe during the time the customer's car was loaned to her brother—and make broad generalizations about the customer's driving habits that affect her insurance prices, her ability to be insured at all, or even her freedom if the technology decides she was driving while impaired. In short, there are dozens of unexplained downsides likely to arise from a technology that watches our every move, even if the technology only reports the results to your insurance company initially.

Losing Anonymity

In this book we do not attempt to provide a definitive interpretation of the nebulous concept of privacy. However, we address the importance of maintaining your choices for what you wish to keep private. Your home, your body, your thoughts and beliefs are all within the control of their owner, and they are easier to hold private. Your finances, your relationships, and your sexuality are areas that most of us would consider private, although additional parties—your bank, your best friend, your sexual partner—hold information concerning these private matters, so privacy is expected, though absolute control is not possible. You may travel places on the public streets and therefore not expect absolute privacy, but you still expect to be relatively anonymous either in a crowd or a place where no one knows you.

In this case, you would lose a measure of independence if everyone knew you everywhere you went and could tie together information about this trip with other information they knew about your shopping habits, your family history, and whose company you enjoy. Once your movements in space are recorded and added into the general base of knowledge without your permission, your freedom is limited. With the pervasive technology discussed in the following chapters, loss of anonymity is rapidly increasing and the basic loss of ability to keep secrets is in jeopardy.

Privacy Protects Freedom of Choice

When your privacy is protected, you are free to choose how much of your sensitive information to expose, to whom you will expose it, and, in some cases, how others can use the information. Philosophers such as John Locke thought that private information is a type of property, and, as with other property, we have the choice about how it can be used and whether to profit from it.

When you have no control over your private information, you have less freedom of choice. When a person understands that everyone will hear his opinion, then his opinion tends to be expressed in a way that is more acceptable to his neighbors, his boss, or the local police. If your living room is being watched by video, you are less likely to walk around in your underwear or eat that block of cheddar on the couch in front of the television, even if that's the way you like to spend an evening.

You might refrain from arguing with your spouse, kids, or parents if you believe people are watching you. We all behave differently when we know we are being watched and listened to, and the resulting change in behavior is simply a loss of freedom—the freedom to behave in a private and comfortable fashion; the freedom to allow the less socially careful branches of our personalities to flower. Loss of privacy reduces the spectrum of choices we can make about the most important aspects of our lives.

By providing a broader range of choices, and by freeing our choices from immediate review and censure from society, privacy enables us to be creative and to make decisions about ourselves that are outside the mainstream. Privacy grants us the room to be as creative and thought-provoking as we want to be. British scholar and law dean Timothy Macklem succinctly argues that the "isolating shield of privacy enables people to develop and exchange ideas, or to foster and share activities, that the presence or even awareness of other people might stifle. For better and for worse, then, privacy is a sponsor and guardian to the creative and the subversive."

Our economy thrives on creativity and new thinking, which in turn are nurtured by privacy of information. Without this privacy, the pace of invention and change slows because our ability to stay ahead of competitors sputters. Privacy is an important lubricant of free thought and free enterprise.

Privacy Secures Our Human Dignity

The wrongheaded notion that privacy is only important for people who are misbehaving ignores the fundamental aspect of privacy as protector of our essential human dignity. Civilized people tend to shield from view the activities and attributes that most remind us of our animal natures. Eating in public is taboo in many societies, and nearly every society contains unwritten rules about what is an acceptable manner of eating around other people. While some societies honor the naked body, people in the Western world cover themselves at all times in public and can be arrested in the United States for doing otherwise.

All animals must dispose of bodily waste, and people in the modern age find the act to be private and prefer to engage in it far from the public eye. Likewise, the entirely natural act of childbirth and the sexual acts that lead to it are considered to be personal and sensitive matters by our society, and basic human dignity requires that people be allowed to choose privacy in these matters. None of these subjects necessarily arouses a question of whether a person is behaving properly, but polite and civilized behavior dictates that people are allowed privacy in acting naturally. Privacy is important for maintaining our status as respected members of society.

Many intrusions on privacy can harm our dignity. In a landmark law review article on the nature of privacy under the law, Professor Edward Bloustein wrote in 1964 about a famous American court case limiting press access:

When a newspaper publishes a picture of a newborn deformed child, its parents are not disturbed about any possible loss of reputation as a result. They are rather mortified and insulted that the world should be witness to their private tragedy. The hospital and the newspaper have no right to intrude in this manner upon a private life.... The wrong is in replacing personal anonymity by notoriety, in turning a private life into a public spectacle.

Professor Bloustein defined this act as an imposition upon and an affront to the plaintiff's human dignity. Fifty years later, the concept of privacy as a protector of personal dignity seems somehow quaint, as game show contestants fight to heap more humiliation upon each other, and an entire class of reality television is based on exposing the ignorance and boorish behavior of happily compliant citizens. But this is a choice that these people make to grab their fifteen minutes of fame, maybe more, as some profit handsomely by exposing themselves to ridicule. Just because television producers can find people who will trade their dignity for silver or spotlights does not mean that dignity isn't important to the vast majority of us, or that privacy choices should be limited in any way.

Privacy is important for protecting personal dignity, not only because it shields our animal natures and our personal misfortunes from publicity. Privacy also allows us to think, talk, and behave as we like in seclusion but still be treated with basic respect accorded all members of our society. If everyone knew how each person behaved in her personal "down time," then their understanding of a person who drools in her sleep, is addicted to daytime soap operas, or can't cook could tarnish the professional and personal respect that they have toward her.

Seeking Normal

No human is perfect, and it can be considered pathological to try too hard to be perfect. We all have our foibles and eccentricities. It seems that the only people who are not somehow strange are the people you don't know very well. But we try to seem "normal" in the ways that are important to each of us, and we present a face to the public that shows our best side. Privacy allows us the dignity to present ourselves as we want the world to see us, the freedom to make mistakes, be clumsy, and display socially unattractive behavior without fear of judgment.

In 1987, President Reagan nominated Judge Robert Bork for the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Lewis Powell's retirement. Bork was a controversial figure with strong views on nearly all legal topics, and his nomination engendered much opposition. During the battle for his confirmation, Judge Bork's video-rental history was leaked to the press and used as fodder by some reporters.

While the video history did not seem to affect the confirmation hearings, its introduction into the public consciousness led directly to one of the first federal privacy laws in the United States, the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988. In this act, Congress recognized that video-rental databases contain private records that, if widely publicized, could negatively affect the ways that people viewed each other.

In a rare, quick act of protection of human dignity, Congress determined that information about the videos that you watch is nobody's business. The introduction of reading material, television-viewing history, video rentals, or Internet-surfing records into a public debate about a political figure allows the public to see a private side that is likely to be completely irrelevant to a person's performance in office, and it allows the public to chuckle at the silly, stupid, or offensive material a public figure consumes in private.

We are afforded less dignity and basic respect when people know the human foibles and odd preferences of our private lives. Privacy in the personal space allows us to maintain that core level of respect that all of us deserve.

Privacy Protects People from Coercion

Why would someone want to intrude on your privacy? Simply because the more he knows about you, the more he can influence your decisions. We have described privacy as a preserver of choices, and therefore freedom. The more choices you have, the freer you are to live your life in the way you prefer. Limiting that freedom can drive you to make the choices that someone else wants you to make.

The most severe example of this coercion through limited privacy was the police state of East Germany during the Cold War. Some estimates claim that the Stasi, the East German secret police, had over half a million informers within the state itself. Informants included many children and teens who were expected to inform on the activities of their parents and teachers, so that no citizen of the East German state could expect privacy from government snooping in any aspect of their lives.

This knowledge allowed the secret police and the government media to coerce the "appropriate" decisions from all citizens on the important aspects of political and economic life. East German citizens were afraid to express opinions or take actions that the government would find offensive, so they toed the party line or suffered serious consequences. Government in a police state first strips its citizens of privacy so that it may exert controlling influence on the large and small decisions of its citizens. Complete destruction of privacy leads to coercion on personal choices.

This ability to influence personal choices need not be so dramatic as to destroy your privacy. For example, a company that knows much about your private choices can influence your future choices. An apparently benign example of this influence is the subtle pull of Amazon.com's recommendations after you make a purchase. You bought a book about kite-flying and then you are presented with a list of similar books on the same topic that might appeal to you. Have you considered the new music by that singer whose previous three sets of mp3s are in your collection? Amazon fully expects that it will be rewarded for making these suggestions by your purchase of additional items from its store.


Two practices made possible by technology are data mining and Big Data. Data mining systematically gathers information, while Big Data involves the prediction of trends based on that data.

Data Mining: Your Privacy Is the Mine

An invasive example of data mining is the story reported in the New York Times in 2011 about discount department store Target's use of data mining to increase sales. The Times reported that Target had discovered that one of the few points in a person's life in which she is open to overhauling her shopping habits is after the birth of a baby, and Target realized that, because the birth of a baby is a public announcement, many companies attempted to influence shopping habits at this time. Target decided to try to learn when its customers were pregnant, so it could make an advanced play for that crucial baby business, breaking customers away from shopping at smaller stores for discrete items and moving them into shopping at Target for all of their needs. The store hired statisticians who identified several items, such as prenatal vitamins and purses big enough to hold diapers, that women purchased when they were pregnant. Target then sent coupons to those identified mothers-to-be to encourage them to increase Target purchases.


Excerpted from Privacy in the Age of Big Data by Theresa M. Payton, Theodore Claypoole. Copyright © 2014 Rowman & Littlefield. Excerpted by permission of ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Theresa Payton was White House Chief Information Officer from 2006 to 2008. Prior to working in federal government, Payton held executive roles in banking technology at Bank of America and Wells Fargo. She lives in Charlotte, NC.

Ted Claypoole is a technology attorney and is currently chair of the Cyberspace Law Committee for the American Bar Association’s Business Law Section. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Theresa Payton is the Chief Advisor and CEO of Fortalice®, LLC, and former White House Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the Executive Office of the President (EOP) from 2006-2008. She was the first woman to hold this position, and currently holds a Top Secret Clearance. Theresa currently delivers security, risk, and fraud consulting services to private and public organizations. In addition to working with key clients in the private and public sector, Theresa is also Emeritus Faculty for the Security Executive Council and hosts a weekly segment on Charlotte, North Carolina’s WBTV called “Protecting Your Cyberturf” targeted at helping viewers stay safer online. Theresa started her career in banking in 1990 and was in the industry until 2006. She was named one of the top 25 “Most Influential People in Security” for 2010 by Security Magazine for her tireless efforts.

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