Reconciling privacy and big data: can it be done?

Cloud services and big data analytics have introduced new risks for which not everyone is prepared. Can we use big data and the cloud while ensuring that the information we process remains private? According to Bryan Ford, an American researcher at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) supported by the AXA Research Fund, the answer is yes. ALL NEWS  |  Risk & Research
May 18, 2016

Bryan Ford is an American researcher who has attained world recognition for his work on information security. With the support of the AXA Research Fund, he was recently appointed Associate Professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, where he heads the research program on information security and confidentiality.

A holistic approach to ensure data security

The topic of Professor Bryan Ford’s research is omnipresent today. Everywhere you turn, people are talking about big data. Bryan Ford is working to define a framework to ensure the availability, integrity and privacy of the large volumes of data being processed.

His view is that it is wrong to tackle one facet of the problem at a time. A holistic approach is needed that simultaneously addresses all three parameters ensuring system protection.

Bryan Ford therefore proposes to eliminate single points of failure by building a decentralized system that will safeguard availability, integrity and privacy using a system of trust-sharing among stakeholders.

AXA Research Program in Information Security and Privacy

Understanding the risks related to cloud computing

Professor Ford is also conducting research on the risks related to the development of cloud computing. It is not yet very transparent how cloud infrastructure, which stores data remotely over a network, manages these data. According to Professor Ford, we need to understand the risks tied to these new cloud services in order to ensure the security of the data stored.

Ford is therefore working to design new system architectures that can solve the problems caused by cloud computing risks. He aims to first develop ways to quantify a system’s risk of failure or compromised privacy and then create prototypes that can reconfigure, based on these metrics, the cloud systems at risk.

Alongside its support to research programs, AXA aims to better understand cyber risk to offer appropriate protection to its clients, thanks to the work of AXA Global P&C, Risk Management and Group Information Security teams.

AXA also set up an advisory board of independent experts on the issue of data privacy, aiming at providing food for thought to the Group teams on the strategy and governance of AXA in this area and help the Group to position itself in the public debate on this topic.

AXA Research Fund in Switzerland and around the world

The AXA Research Fund has already committed a total of €6.3 million in Switzerland to support 18 research projects, exploring health, socio-economic and environmental risks.

Created in 2007, the AXA Research Fund supports 492 projects driven by researchers of 51 nationalities working in 269 universities, in 33 different countries. The Fund also helps scientists share their knowledge with a broader audience, in order to participate in the public discussion and debate on the risks faced by our societies.

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