Managing public location data

Mobile gps navigation, travel destination, location and positioning concept


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I am an active user of geolocation data on my smartphone. I take public transport, both at home, and on my travels. My GPS must be active for my transit app, which I use heavily, to update me on my bus schedules and routes. I also like to tag my location on Facebook; I’ve found this to be very useful when I’m on holidays, as it allows me to accurately label the names and locations of museums, galleries, and so forth when I upload my digital images to my cloud server. I use Google Maps frequently to find walking routes to various locations, even if these routes are sometimes overly circuitous. I am aware of the privacy concerns that people have about this type of tracking data, but I must admit that convenience and functionality win the argument for me.

This article by Fareena Sultan and Syagnik Banerjee discusses how marketers can use and manage geolocation data. Proximity marketing is one of these uses: Stores deploy beacons that send Bluetooth alerts to subscribed customers to push products. Geo-fencing extends this further by creating a zone around a business to push alters to mobile devices of subscribers. I don’t subscribe to these types of services, as this is rather too much information that I am willing to share, and also because I practice minimalism and thus am careful to avoid impulse buying.

Vigilant Marketing Intelligence is another use of geolocation data: As an example, if I post a picture on Instagram of a meal I’ve eaten at a restaurant and include the restaurant’s name, I may receive a private response from that restaurant, or a public post, and my post may be shared by that restaurant. I may be invited by that restaurant to participate in a survey, post a review, and so forth. This is an area I need to monitor, given what I have said above about tagging my location in Facebook. I do like to support restaurants that have vegan options, which is why I tag food at times, but I must admit that I’m not always comfortable with the resharing of this content, so I’m being more vigilant about when I do this.

The authors discuss the privacy implications of collecting geolocation data: It’s important to understand that this type of increased monitoring warrants a corresponding increased attention to privacy needs. Once a customer chooses to participate in a social media sharing system, attention has to be dedicated to securing data storage and providing the user access to information that has been collected by brands and processed on their behalf. The article provides some useful advice on how companies can protect customer privacy, and how they should communicate with their customers.

Biometrics and digital security


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This article by Larry Alton discusses the benefits and potential weaknesses of biometrics to secure digital devices. I have been using biometrics on my smartphone, laptop, and tablet for a number of years now. I use a thumbprint on my laptop and tablet. I prefer the higher security offered by biometrics, but the thumbprint can be a bit of nuisance at times, as I often have to swipe my thumb more than once. If there is any moisture on your skin (e.g., hand lotion, water, etc.), the scan doesn’t work; similarly, if you swipe too slowly or quickly, the scan won’t work. I’ve recently switched to iris recognition on my smartphone and much prefer this method, as it is very quick; much faster than a thumb swipe, and it took two seconds for the smartphone to register the irises.  Registering a thumbprint takes much longer, as the scanning area on the smartphone is very small. Unlocking via iris scan is faster than entering a password. Alton’s list of benefits and weaknesses follow below:


The uniqueness of the signature.  Instead of memorizing an exhaustive list of passwords or carrying around specific paperwork to prove your identity, you simply provide a smile, an eye, an ear, or a fingerprint, which you have with you at all times.

Accuracy.  The latest comprehensive study of fingerprint technology found that single-finger tests were correct 98.6 percent of the time, with two-finger tests getting 99.6 percent accuracy and 99.9 percent accuracy for four-finger (or more) tests.

Cost. Though the cost of setting up a biometric system may be expensive, the long-term costs of management are much lower than those of conventional systems.


Device limitations. Right now, the most convenient and portable device we have with biometric capabilities is the smartphone, but the smartphone has limitations. It has a small fingerprint scanning area, so it only takes a partial fingerprint. (NB. See my note above about why I’ve switched to iris recognition).

Modifications. Biometrics rely on the permanence of your features, but what if those features change? What if someone obtains a copy of your features? It may be hard to replicate your iris, or the shape of your ears, but if someone does, it’s virtually impossible to modify what you already have as a measure of security.

Resets.  If you want to verify your identity after a thief has stolen your biometric information, you’ll need to do it in person, and by that time, the damage may be done.

System limitations. Biometrics still rely on databases, and databases are vulnerable. If and when someone finds a way into the system, whether it’s through a brute-force hacking attempt or an employee’s weakly created password, they’ll have access to data that could be used to manipulate millions of accounts.

Quantum computing


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Full disclosure: I am a big fan of the Showtime series Billions. The world of venture capitalism has never interested me very much, but the Machiavellian-type machinations of the main characters, as well as the cat and mouse games, appeal to my INTJ nature. One of the most interesting characters on the show is Taylor Mason, a mathematical whiz who applies their talents with laser-like precision to investment decisions. Quantum computing is playing a role of increasing importance in the story line, as Mason and their colleague develop a mathematically foolproof (they hope) method to assess investment risks and opportunities. Bobbie Axelrod, Mason’s employer, on the other hand, prefers to trust in his own very superior instincts and believes in the power of emotions and intuitions when it comes to decision making.  It will be interesting to see how the battle of mathematics versus intuition will play out in the remainder of the season.

All this serves as a preamble to this post by Lisa Morgan that discusses the growing importance of quantum computing, and why businesses need to embrace it. I’ve attended a few presentations on this topic, which I find fascinating. Morgan provides helpful explanations of quantum computing and provides useful references sources that businesses can consult to understand this concept further. Morgan provides links to a number of quantum computing sandboxes that can be used to get a feel for what this technology can accomplish. The horizon for full implementation of quantum computing is estimated to be ten years, which means that organizations need to start preparing for it now.

Answering questions with metadata


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This post by Robert Seiner discusses the various questions that metadata can answer in an organizational setting. Seiner posits that managing data, information, and knowledge will be the business driver. Seiner divides these questions into the following categories:

  1. Database Metadata
  2. Data Model Metadata
  3. Data Movement Metadata
  4. Business Rule Metadata
  5. Data Stewardship Metadata
  6. Application Component Metadata
  7. Data Access / Reporting Metadata
  8. Rationalization Metadata
  9. Data Quality Metadata
  10. Computer Operations Metadata

Seiner suggests that organizations ask themselves

  • can my company answer these questions?
  • what is it costing my company to answer these questions?
  • what is the results when we are not being able to answer these questions?

Under each of the 10 categories above, Seiner provides a comprehensive list of sub-questions, e.g., What databases exist? What is the physical name of the database where the data is stored?

The post is a long read, but well worth it, and is certainly something I will be recommending to my students in the next academic year.