Adam Turner '88 will be holding talk about how companies use personal data.
In his book What Stays in Vegas, journalist Adam Tanner exposes the greatest threat to privacy today. It is not the NSA, but good-old American companies. Internet giants, leading retailers and other firms are gathering data behind the scenes with little oversight from anyone. No company knows the value of data better than Caesars Entertainment, a Las Vegas-based casino-entertainment company. The secret to the company’s success lies in their one unrivaled asset: they know their clients intimately by tracking the activities of the overwhelming majority of gamblers. Caesars’ dogged data-gathering methods have been so successful that they have grown to become the world’s largest casino operator, and have inspired companies of all kinds to ramp up their own data mining in the hopes of boosting their targeted marketing efforts.
The reality is that we live in an age where our personal information is harvested and aggregated whether we like it or not. And it is growing ever more difficult for those businesses that choose not to engage in more intrusive data gathering to compete with those that do. Tanner’s timely warning resounds: yes, there are many benefits to the free flow of all this data, but there is a dark side as well. With societal and legal boundaries on the use of personal data still largely undefined, the potential for abuse looms large.
Adam Tanner is a fellow at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. He is the author of “What Stays in Vegas: The World of Personal Data-Lifeblood of Big Business-and the End of Privacy as We Know It,” published in September 2014. The Washington Post named the book one of 50 notable works of non-fiction in 2014. Reviews have also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post and the Financial Times. He has been at Harvard since 2011, initially as a Nieman Fellow. From 1995-2011, he was a correspondent at Reuters, including service as bureau chief for the Balkans for 2008-2011, and San Francisco bureau chief from 2003-2008. The title of his Abe research project is: “Different Approaches in Japan and the United States in the Multi-Billion Dollar Hidden Trade in Our Private Medical Data.”