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As companies profit from personal data, safeguards are insufficient

China Daily | Updated: 2019-11-28 09:13
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JERUSALEM - "When we look at the coming mountains of data, the question will be who will make money out of it," said a representative of the Israel Innovation Authority, or IIA, during a tech event held on Monday in Tel Aviv.

Sagi Dagan, head of the growth division at the IIA, a publicly-funded independent investment agency, made the remarks at the Mind The Tech conference, organized by Israeli business newspaper Calcalist to showcase the newest trends in technology.

Yoel Esteron, publisher and founder of Calcalist, said his newspaper had organized many tech-oriented international conferences in Israel and around the world. In his vision, high tech is the frontier of the Israeli economy.

According to Esteron, technology will be in every aspect of people's lives and artificial intelligence will be at the center. However, at the same time, people should be worrying about privacy issues.

"Israeli high tech is well known around the world. That is what drives the economy, and it is why Calcalist focuses on technology and innovation," he said.

Dagan, a keynote speaker, said that as technology is advancing, and the world becomes rapidly more digitalized, almost any action in people's personal lives will leave a digital footprint that becomes valuable data.

Even smart refrigerators will possess sensitive and valuable information about the diet, health, and consumption of households, Dagan said.

The private information could be worth a lot of money to businesses in fields such as insurance, and drug and food production, but question of who or what legally owns this data will not be resolved quickly, so regulations are needed, he said.

Shay Basson, head of the technology division at Israeli Bank Leumi, said at the conference: "Data is the new fuel, and AI is the new oxygen, and the combination of them creates smart banking."

AI enables the analysis of enormous data that grows exponentially. Patterns extracted from data by sophisticated algorithms based on AI now lead to companies profiting from people's personal information.

"The most important banking today is smart banking. AI and its applications are playing a crucial role," Basson said.

Tech companies around the world possess a huge amount of personal data and some are starting to compete with the traditional banks with similar services to the same clients.

The tech giants want to challenge the old-fashioned banks, and even to be kind of banks by themselves, Basson said.

Cyberattacks are posing a threat that banks should deal with due to the transformation of technology, Basson stressed during his speech at the conference.

Unlike heavily regulated banks, tech companies have an easier road to earning profits from private data, he said.

Shiri Dolev, president of Israeli cyber-surveillance company NSO, said that stopping the hacking of personal data by potential terrorists and criminals was an urgent need.

She said that the protection is designed to shield the data of ordinary individuals, who are the vast majority of all tech giants' users.

However, the current level of law enforcement and governmental intelligence around the world is insufficient to safeguard public safety, she added.


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