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Alasdair Allan keynote Strata Conference London 2012 "The Secret Life of Data"

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Published on Oct 2, 2012

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.

Alasdair Allan is the author of Learning iOS Programming, Programming iOS Sensors, Basic Sensors in iOS, Geolocation in iOS, iOS Sensor Apps and Arduino and Augmented Reality in iOS. Last year he and Pete Warden caused a privacy scandal by uncovering that your iPhone was recording your location all of the time without you knowing. This caused several class action lawsuits and a U.S. Senate hearing. He isn't sure what to think about that. From time to time he stands in front of cameras, and you can often find him at conferences run by O'Reilly Media.

He runs a small technology consulting business writing bespoke software, building open hardware and providing training, including a series of workshops on sensors. He sporadically writes blog posts about things that interest him, or more frequently provides commentary about them in 140 characters or less.

Alasdair is also a senior research fellow at the University of Exeter. As part of his work there 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 the most distant object yet discovered, a gamma-ray burster at a redshift of 8.2.

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