The Secret Life of Data

Alasdair Allan (Babilim Light Industries)
Location: King's Suite
Average rating: ****.
(4.54, 13 ratings)
Ever searched for loose change down the back of the sofa? Ever wondered where all those odd socks go? Or the missing biros? How about the tea spoons from the work canteen? No? Well nor have I, much more important things to do after all. But I have searched for data in the cracks between software architectures, trailed people down the street watching them leak data, data that can tell me and others about their everyday lives, and mined unstructured data for their secrets. Big data isn’t just multi-terabyte datasets hidden inside eventually-concurrent distributed databases in the cloud. It’s also about the hidden data you carry with you all the time, data that is generated for you and about you, but not necessarily by you. Hidden data, your data, carrying on its secret life without your knowledge, but with your implicit and implied consent.
Photo of Alasdair Allan

Alasdair Allan

Babilim Light Industries

Alasdair Allan is a Scientist, Author, Hacker and Tinkerer, who is currently thinking about trying to fix the Internet of Things, which he thinks is broken.

He is the author of a number of books, and from time to time he also stands in front of cameras. You can often find him at conferences talking about interesting things, or deploying sensors to measure them. He recently rolled out a mesh network of five hundred sensors motes covering the entire of Moscone West during Google I/O. He’s still recovering.

He sporadically writes blog posts about things that interest him, or more frequently provides commentary in 140 characters or less. He is a contributing editor for MAKE magazine, and a contributor to the O’Reilly Radar.

A few years ago he caused a privacy scandal by uncovering that your iPhone was recording your location all the time. This caused several class action lawsuits and a U.S. Senate hearing. Several years on, he still isn’t sure what to think about that.

Alasdair is a former academic. As part of his work he built a distributed peer-to-peer network of telescopes which, acting autonomously, reactively scheduled observations of time-critical events. Notable successes included contributing to the detection of what was—at the time—the most distant object yet discovered, a gamma-ray burster at a redshift of 8.2.

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