Privacy puzzles

I contributed a database reconstruction attack demonstration to the companion repository to the excellent book Practical Data Privacy by my colleague Katharine Jarmul.

My interest was piqued by my colleague Mitchell Lisle sharing the paper Understanding Database Reconstruction Attacks on Public Data from the US Census Bureau authors Simson Garfinkel, John M. Abowd, and Christian Martindale. Mitchell and I collaborated on a pair of solutions using mathematical optimisation/satisfaction techniques. Check out Mitchell’s solution using the Z3 library. I used OR-Tools instead.

The notebook demonstrates that individual rows of a database may be reconstructed, even if only summary statistics are shared, by considering the constraints that the statistics place on possible values of the data. Constraints include mean and median for all numerical values globally and for various cohorts of records determined by class values.

Note that the intent is of this notebook is not to compromise any private data, but to raise awareness of the potential for privacy breaches due to reconstruction attacks!

Perspectives edition #27

I was thrilled to contribute to Thoughtworks Perspectives edition #27: Power squared: How human capabilities will supercharge AI’s business impact. There are a lot of great quotes from my colleagues Barton Friedland and Ossi Syd in the article, and here’s one from me:

The ability to build or consume solutions isn’t necessarily going to be your differentiator – but the ability to integrate them into your processes and products in the best way is.

It’s also neat to be quoted in Português and Español!

Electrifying the world with AI Augmented decision-making

I wrote an article about optimising the design of EV charging networks. It’s a story of work done by a team at Thoughtworks, demonstrating the potential of AI augmented decision-making (including some cool optimisation techniques), in this rapidly evolving but durably important space.

We were able to thread together these many [business problem, AI techniques, data sourcing, technology] concerns in such a short time because of our relentless focus — not on the code or the mathematics — but on generating value: namely making it easier for humans to make decisions according to business goals.

Data Mesh Radio

I joined Scott Hirleman for an episode (#95) of the Data Mesh Radio podcast. Scott does great work connecting and educating the data mesh community, and we had fun talking about:

  • Fitness functions to define “what good looks like” for data mesh and guide the evolution of analytic data architecture and operating model
  • Team topologies as a system for organisational design that is sympathetic to data mesh
  • Driving a delivery program through use cases
  • Thin slicing and evolution of products

My episode is #95 Measuring Your Data Mesh Journey Progress with Fitness Functions

Creative AI

I recently talked with Leon Gettler on an episode of the Talking Business podcast about Creative AI – paring people with AI to augment product and strategy development.

This connects with some themes I’ve blogged about here before, such as No Smooth Path to Good Design and Leave Product Development to the Dummies. Also, Sketching Semantle Solvers explores how machines might generate and test new ideas in a game scenario in a way that’s sympathetic to human players.

Bridging the linguistic inclusion gap with AI

It was great to be able to reflect with colleagues on common themes running through Thoughtworks’ work in languages and technology. In various scenarios, with different technology approaches, we worked to improve the inclusiveness of solutions, pointing to a more linguistically inclusive future.

Governments’ Handling of COVID App Data

I was able to contribute to this article from FST Media: Exposing the fault lines in governments’ handling of Covid app data. I talked about the need for citizens to have trust in the collection and use of data, lest lack of trust undermine the utility of the data.

If the risks aren’t properly managed, the end result is harm to citizens through the direct release of data or degraded performance of contact tracing and the impact on public health.

Why the Australian COVIDSafe App Failed

It was a pleasure to collaborate with some of my colleagues on this article in The Australian newspaper, which I was able to put my name to. The article is titled Why the COVIDSafe App Failed, and may need a subscription to access.

The tl;dr

The COVIDSafe experience has been an education and if one thing is clear, it is that if we are going to pin all our hopes on a piece of public health technology, it must be built on sound health evidence and a solid platform of trust for it to have any real value in protecting the communities it serves.

Data Visualisation Podcast

It was fun to join the ThoughtWorks Tech Podcast again, with Zhamak Dehghani, Alexey Boas, and Ned Letcher, this time to talk about Getting to grips with data visualization.

A vast array of powerful data visualization tools are gaining traction in enterprises looking to make sense of their data sets, for instance D3, Bokeh, Shiny and Dash. In this episode, our team explores to concept of data visualization as part of a complete digital experience, with the workflows and journeys of a wide variety of users.

ThoughtWorks Technology Podcasts