IBM announced the new appointment of the top management of the company–Christina Peters was promoted to Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) and will lead a team of lawyers, experts in data security and technical staff who are engaged in policies and practices of protection of personal data of more than 400 thousand employees and hundreds of thousands of customers around the world.
Christine Peters will continue to work on the Future of Privacy Forum advisory board; in fact, one of its most important tasks in IBM is to attract the public to participate in the development of industry initiatives related to protection of private data.
A member of IBM’s legal department since 1996, Peters joined IBM privacy team in 2010 under CPO Harriet Pearson.
With new cloud services and recently launched Pure Data System, IBM is expanding portfolios in business intelligence, near real-time data analysis, and online transactional processing. The Big Blue company wants to occupy leadership position mainly on the areas of mobile, identity management, database security and Big Data security.
One particular region that Big Data cybersecurity will overlap pragmatic real-world problems will be in how companies who use data affect the privacy of their customers. The personal data footprint of any individual who uses Amazon.com, Google, social media, and the web in general leaves them vulnerable to a lot of different types of fraud—identity theft bright among them—and this is a concern that any company who invests in a Big Data solution that puts a lens directly to actual people needs to address.
In a recent company blog post, Peters writes “New analytics technologies make it possible for companies to better understand customers and their needs, and to personalize offers and services. Yet, at the same time, risks to privacy are real. It’s important for sensitive personal information to be protected and for people to be aware of how information they share will be used, so they can make decisions about what’s okay with them and what isn’t.”
Christine Peters was educated at Dartmouth College and Harvard University (USA), has been the executive editor of Harvard Law Review, worked for several law firms in the Federal Cartel Authority and Deutsche Telekom (Germany), and since 1996–in various positions at IBM (first in Germany and later in the U.S.), where she was responsible for the legal aspects of the transaction, policies, compliance with regulatory norms concerned with the issue of cyber security.
Privacy as a function of good security and IBM’s approach through appointment
Just because something is hidden does not mean that it is secure; however, if something is secure, it is by definition protected and in most cases with information, that means it’s protected from view by unauthorized persons. Big Data presents a new and problematic approach to the flow of information in the lives of everyday people, even those who don’t spend a lot of time on the Internet.
This is why legislation like CISPA would be such a profound failure for security in general, and why Big Data privacy is important to its underlying security.
One of the powers of Big Data analysis is to give companies a better view of how their customers behave—and this is an expected outcome of marketing, after all they want to make money. What companies and marketers do not want to do is make their customers vulnerable to fraud or to lose confidence that the service the company is providing is opening them up to electronic voyeurism. The obvious implications of privacy and Big Data accidentally came to light when Target’s marketing guessed that a teenage girl was pregnant. A correct guess, but it had some real social implications and revealed some of the unexpected power behind this technology.
Christine Peter’s appears to have a solid background in the law and she will likely be a good addition to IBM’s team for keeping them in line with the law; but what we should hope for is more companies seek people who understand privacy. I like what she’s said so far because it reveals she understands how data footprints from customers can then directly affect their lives, reputations, and careers and that as a result IBM is gathering and collating information that can put their own customers at risk.
I look forward to more big companies, marketing, Big Data, and otherwise to openly show a commitment to privacy as part of their cybersecurity policy.
Contributing authors: Saroj Kar, Kyt Dotson