NC TECH tackled big questions about data at the 2020 State of Technology Conference.
Over the span of two mornings last Thursday and Friday (July 23-24), a lineup of executives and North Carolina’s two gubernatorial candidates talked all things data for the conference’s focus on “Data: The New Natural Resource.”
The conference had a virtual format similar to last month’s Diversity + Inclusion in Tech summit, with keynote speakers and several breakout sessions featuring expert panelists.
On Day One, Governor Roy Cooper and Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest presented their thoughts on the future of technology in North Carolina, with Cooper pledging to continue working with innovators and Forest expressing pride in being on the cutting edge.
Keynote speakers Heidi Lanford, Vice President of Enterprise Data & Analytics at Red Hat, and Kerri Patterson, Director of Technology and Clinical Decision Support at Optum, opened each day with presentations followed by a brief Q&A with NC TECH President Brooks Raiford.
Data—the “new natural resource”—has so many opportunities for application that it can be difficult to comprehend. Michael Capps, the CEO of Diveplane Corporation and former president of Epic Games, provided a simple metaphor in the closing keynote: Data is like coffee.
“One similarity between coffee and data is you will not last long without it,” Capps said.
Capps says data, like coffee, won’t be good unless every step in the process is right, and managing extraction is crucial for both. In coffee, that means the way flavor is extracted from the bean, but in data that means cleaning the data so outliers don’t skew the outcome.
Both coffee and data have a shelf life, Capps says, and both can be good every step of the way until one bad link in the chain makes the whole thing bad.
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Attendants could chose one of three concurrent breakout sessions each day. In the panel called “Conspiracy versus Convenience – Your Data Privacy,” one audience member asked who actually owns data.
Host Lynn Percival, Partner in Data Privacy and Security Practice at Wyrick Robbins, says he doesn’t know. He explains that U.S. privacy law doesn’t explain who owns data and brought up social security numbers as an example. People don’t own their social security numbers, but it is data about them.
Panelist Tom MacKenzie, Vice President of Privacy and Security Compliance at TCDI, says he thinks whoever collects data owns it because they become responsible for it.
“If we’re talking about data that is collected and who owns it,” McKenzie said, “we have always operated under the principle that the owner is whoever has the right or the ability to make decisions on what happens to the data—how it’s processed, if you will.”
McKenzie also acknowledges some vague areas of the U.S. privacy law that he says will likely develop in the future.
“It may be that the consumer doesn’t even want me to have it,” McKenzie said, “but like you said, in the U.S., there aren’t a lot of guidelines that protect the consumer on some of this.”
An additional feature of the annual conference included pitches by six North Carolina startups: Collaborations Pharmaceuticals in Raleigh, Gina Health in Charlotte, SmartFox Technologies in Wilmington, Protopia in Raleigh, Floodlight Software in Cary and Tango Legal. GrepBeat has previously featured Protopia, Floodlight Software and Tango Legal (under its previous name, Civvis).
At the end of the conference, attendants voted Tango Legal as winner. The company won a prize package that includes cash and in-kind services courtesy of NC TECH.