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“Open data requires the same level of protection as private data” – Sir Tim Berners-Lee warns that not protecting open data could “create chaos”

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There are fresh concerns that open data could “create chaos” as the father of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, warns that open data should have a public infrastructure, and requires the same level of protection as private data.

As the world continues to rely more and more on data that can be transferred in the blink of an eye, has he got a point?

Is there a hierarchy of importance for private and public data?

When you think of data protection, you will probably think about all the ‘sensitive and private’ information you would like locked away in a golden chest. However, we need to get out of that mentality, and recognise that public data is also very vulnerable to misuse as well.

Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, a co-founder of the Open Data Institute, has called on the Government to think about open data that warrants protection in the same / similar way as private data. Shadbolt gives examples of open data, such as legal companies, hospitals, and geographic data, which can be vulnerable to attack. Once a cyber-criminal has access to open data like the ones listed above, there’s an open market for them to leech onto the data and access further information.

Both Sir Lee and Professor Shadbolt liken the importance of data as how clean water and clear air is important for the environment; pressing the point that infrastructure for open data is important for things like national security. Cyber attackers could access the open data, such as bank rates, and switch the figures. Although it’s not as ‘invasive’ as accessing private data – as the data is public – the attackers are likely to financially gain from it.

Growing trend of cyber-attacks

Cyber-attacks continue to trend, with the U.K. confirmed as a hotspot for cyber-crime. One of the main reasons is that companies are not putting in place adequate security to fend off the attackers. This was shown in a survey conducted by the accountancy company PwC, where one third of companies had no plans to prevent online fraud.

Another reason for this is purely because everything is becoming digitalised. For example, cloud-based systems are being used more and more (like the Apple iCloud system where data such as photographs are stored digitally).

Recent attacks like the huge denial of service attack that blocked users from websites, including Twitter, Netflix, Amazon and Paypal, was done through using internet-connected devices such as mobile phones and tablets. I.e. simple accessible devices “open” data.

British Government is reportedly ‘alert’

The British Government suggest they’re responding well to the potential of attacks on British infrastructure. The British chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced a £1.9 billion cyber-security strategy to fend off the growing threat of national and personal cyber-attacks. Mr Hammond has recognised that Britain must keep up-to-date with the threats that are inevitable and imminent as an interview with the MI5 chief reveals a threat that Russia are allegedly targeting the U.K.

It’s crucial that open and public data gets the same cyber-security treatment as private data. The cyber-security funding will improve the defences to safeguard citizens as well as businesses.

IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.

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First published by Matthew on December 06, 2016
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