data access and privacy

Balancing Data Access & Privacy for a Better Future | Data & Me

Have you noticed the uptick of automation on your smartphone lately?

Probably not. That’s because the amazing amount of information fueling that automation is being combed through in the background. Every day when you use apps, check your email, surf the net and move around in the world, the information fed back to those apps and services helps them serve you better. So, whether it’s shopping recommendations, auto-calendaring or getting you around traffic, your data is helping them help you do daily tasks faster and easier.

We’re starting to see the promise of data in our daily lives more and more. And we’re appreciating its value without even knowing it.

The Value of Personal Data

For sure there are many sides to the data privacy conversation, especially considering some of the big stories around its abuse. But when we step back and look at the value data can bring to our lives and world, it’s worth remembering that this is a relatively new problem and many companies are seeking the right way to manage and put the data to use to benefit end users and spur innovation that can make our world better.

“One of the great challenges is to balance the potential value of shared data with the justifiable concerns around privacy.” — Gil Elbaz, Founder and CEO of Factual

For leaders like Gil Elbaz (featured in our video above) and his company Factual, developing clear policies that protect the crucial consumer data that are driving todays innovation while designing a data infrastructure that promotes accessibility, is vital to the next step of human technological evolution.

“Companies use data because the opportunity to provide more value to the end user is absolutely endless, and the best way to do that is to build technology that becomes your best friend — your autonomous agent in your pocket. The thing about a best friend is that they know how you feel. They know what you’re thinking without you having to say it. They can predict what you need, and it can only do that if it knows you … that’s what computing is becoming. The opportunity to have this kind of assistant in your pocket is really going to change the world for the better,” shared Gil.

A User-Centric World of Tomorrow

When companies can know and understand the user better, they can design and build to their needs. And though auto-calendaring based on your inbox and AI helping you find that awesome pair of shoes is pretty darn cool, it’s only the very beginning of what will come.

“We’re starting to see a lot more innovation from companies from all spheres of the economy that realize that by investing in data infrastructure and the talent around data science, they can invent the future.” — Gil Elbaz elaborates in the video above

The most innovative companies1 today are using a huge variety of data to identify the bigger patterns in our consumption, mobility and preferences. The best of the best are endlessly trying to decode what’s working and what needs improvement in our world, all based off of us humans — our wants, desires, needs and instincts.

data access and privacy

Those who deeply understand human interactions with technology and the world through user-generated data will have a leg up on creating innovations and solutions that will be more applicable and adaptable.

A great example of this is the winning project from our data innovation challenge, where we curated a diversity of datasets from nine major companies across six different sectors of business. The winning team proposed a transportation solution for Mexico City that would decrease congestion and pollution while meeting the needs of the city’s residents. This result could only have been achieved using the big data combination of human mobility, weather, pollution and energy consumption that offered a comprehensive look at the resident patterns and the transportation and environmental factors affecting them.

On the healthcare front, researchers and organizations can use anonymized user data to better understand the correlation between our genomic makeup and disease treatments. Some organizations are even looking to use big data to more accurately diagnose cancer and other illnesses.

Data Infrastructure Helping to Balance Privacy and Access

With all this Very Important Data out there coming from users, how can data infrastructure (you know, the systems housing all this info gold) help in the situation?

Building a scalable, flexible data infrastructure is incredibly important to our future. Systems designed to collect the fount of information pouring in from IoT devices, smartphones, internet usage, social media and apps must also be designed for security and accessibility.

Additionally, emerging technologies such as object storage are changing the way information is fundamentally organized so that separating out the edifying data from the personal data can be done more easily.

Healthcare is a key use case here. The value derived from aggregated medical scans to identify and diagnose nuanced disease states as well as response to therapies can revolutionize treatment. But all that data doesn’t need the personal information attached. By re-thinking how data can be organized, we can make it easier to protect privacy while also allowing for accessibility that will improve our lives and world.

So while protecting our data privacy is absolutely important, a world in which we can balance anonymization with access, privacy with accessibility is a world ripe with possibilities.

More insights from Gil Elbaz on Data Makes Possible:


Gil Elbaz is an accomplished entrepreneur and pioneer of natural language technology. In 1998, Gil co-founded Applied Semantics Inc. (ASI) which developed contextual advertising products, including ASI’s AdSense. He is currently CEO and Founder of his second startup, Factual.


  1. Fast Company 50 Most Innovative Companies

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