Healey hopes MIT forum will help shape data initiative

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/03/24/healey-hopes-mit-forum-will-help-shape-data-initiative/

STATE HOUSE — Striking a balance between privacy and innovation will be the theme of a forum Thursday that Attorney General Maura Healey hopes will shape her office’s work around the protection of consumer data.

The forum, held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a collaboration among Healey’s office, the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Internet Policy Research Initiative and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

“As our economy moves online and that’s the way that people increasingly conduct their business, we just need to make sure that people’s privacy is protected,” Healey said. “We in government and the private sector, I think, share a deep interest in ensuring the privacy of information and this is just a great opportunity to come together and talk about these things.”

Healey described Massachusetts as a leader in the big data field, which has been attracting more attention recently in the state. Earlier this month, MIT launched a new business analytics graduate program to meet industry demand for talent, and UMass Boston is looking to begin offering a computational sciences doctorate for the same reason.

In remarks to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce this month, House Speaker Robert DeLeo described big data as “industry that’s inclusive of Massachusetts’ most formidable sectors” and proposed a $2 million fund to promote the use of data and analytics.

Thursday’s forum, Healey said, will look at ways to protect against consumer data abuse and misuse as technologies and industries expand.

“What we’ve seen is everything from people having their identity stolen and misused, whether it’s to file false tax returns, whether it’s to get access to bank account information and literally steal people’s money,” she told the News Service. “Inaccurate information on something like a credit report we know affects a person’s ability to access credit, to sometimes get a job, to apply for housing or to get a loan, and accuracy in the information that’s collected is really really important as well.”

The attorney general said she hopes the event will help raise consciousness around issues related to data collection and data privacy, including the way personal data like race or socioeconomic status can be used to enable predatory lending. Her office, she said, recently contacted Facebook over an operation in which scammers had set up a page on the social networking site, targeting students with promises of loan relief and then charging fees without “providing any legitimate service.” Facebook was able to shut down the account.

“There’s so many scams out there that exist, increasingly online,” Healey said.

The forum runs from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. in MIT’s Building 10 on Memorial Drive. Healey is scheduled to give a keynote address at 9 a.m.

Afterwards, a panel moderated by MIT Internet Policy Research Initiative Director Danny Weitzner will explore consumer privacy risks in the digital marketplace. Panelists include ACLU Massachusetts Executive Director Carol Rose and Dipayan Ghosh, Facebook’s privacy and public policy advisor.

A second panel, moderated by Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic assistant director Dalia Topelson Ritvo, looks at the role of states in protecting consumer privacy. Its panelists include assistant attorney general Sara Cable, Google senior analyst Sarah Holland, National Consumer Law Center attorney Persis Yu, and Quentin Palfrey, a former senior advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“The point of this forum and the goal of it is really to open a dialogue and to shape a new initiative in my office that’s focused on that balance,” Healey said. “How do we allow and support data-driven innovation to flourish, and benefit all consumers or at least protect against potential consumer abuses?”

— Written by Katie Lannan

Copyright State House News Service