Sunday, August 2, 2015

Aarti Shahani's "How will the next president protect our digital lives?"

I think that it is so, so important to introduce statistics students to the big picture of how data is used in their every day lives. Even with all of the material that we are charged with covering in introduction to statistics, I think it is still important to touch on topics like Big Data and Data Mining in order to emphasize to our students how ubiquitous statistics are in our lives. 

In my honors section, I assign multiple readings (news stories, TED talks, NPR stories) prior to a day of discussion devoted to this topic. In my non-honors sections of statistics and my online sections, I've used electronic discussion boards to introduce the topic via news stories. I also have a manuscript in press that describes a way to introduce very basic data mining techniques in the Introduction to Statistics classroom.

That's why I think this NPR news story is worth sharing. Shahani describes and provides data (from Pew) to argue that Americans are worried about the security of their data and goes on to suggest that the federal government (in particular, our next president) need to strengthen the security surrounding our data. One option is to levy heavy fines against companies that get hacked. 

She also touches on the fact that the internet and our data collection have expanded and grown far faster than our legal systems ability to keep up with it or for the free-market to generate a solution to this problem. 

I like this piece because it touches on just how enormous the problem is and how many stake holders there are. I also like that the support the importance of government intervention via data that demonstrates that Americans are very concerned about the privacy of their data.