Top Tech News You Need to Know: Police Data, City Chief Data Officers and Healthcare Data Breeches

This week’s top tech news focuses on bringing data to the people, and having it fight for, rather than against, the people. From data collection of local police, to the hiring of chief data officers throughout the country’s major cities, here is what you need to know this week when it comes to data collection, use and the future of our protected rights.

L.A. Appoints First Chief Data Officer

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti hired the city’s first chief data officer, Abhi Nemani, in a move to “promote transparency and accountability” through big data. Nemani’s role will include managing and expanding programs like the open-data portal – launched May 31 – which reports stats ranging from city payroll info, LAPD crime and collision data, and water use by zip code. 

The goal? To make the lives of L.A. residents and visitors more convenient, and offer journalists and innovators the ability to access city data easily and efficiently. 

“Data has the power to transform the daily lives of L.A. residents and visitors.”

“Data has the power to transform the daily lives of L.A. residents and visitors,” Nemani said. “Knowing where your money is going, where a parking space is available, and where an event is taking place puts information into the hands of those who need it most. Mayor Garcetti is committed to opening city data for innovators and users everywhere, and I’m thrilled to join his team to help him get there.”

L.A. joins other major cities in the U.S. to add a CDO to their c-suite including Denver, New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Austin. 

Better Policing Through Better Data

This summer alone, three men in three states have died at the hands of police in questionable incidents. The question many are asking is this: are local police, increasingly militaristic, becoming increasingly aggressive? 

The problem: no one really knows

As it turns out, state and local police are not required to report any data on the use of police force – so many don’t. The data we do have, then, is an incomplete picture. 

Here is what we know: In 2010, police officers killed 387 people in “justifiable homicides,” according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report. That number is up by almost one-third since 2000, after falling steadily in the previous decade.

“State and local police are not required to report any data on the use of police force.”

Justifiable homicides are only the tip of the iceberg, and don’t answer questions like the number of police shootings, number of shots fired, number of police injuries, cases of excessive force, civilian complains and more. That data remains legally unreported, though in 1994, Congress did direct the attorney general to “acquire data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers” and “publish an annual summary of the data.” The Justice Department, for the most part, has wholly ignored that mandate. 

Today, as big data becomes more and more accessible, many have called for the wearing of cameras by cops to help both cops and citizens during disputes. In addition, many are calling for Attorney General Eric Holder to enforce the 1994 mandate, for the sake of the nation. 

90% of Healthcare Organizations Have Exposed Patient Data or Had It Stolen 

When it comes to data security, most of us are familiar with breaches like Target or NSA spying. In fact, because of those two infamous data leaks, many Americans actually know what data rights are, and are beginning to educate themselves on data collection and use transparency, or lack there of. 

This is even more important in the healthcare system, where 90% of healthcare organizations exposed patient data or had it stolen in both 2012 and 2013

Why the lack of security when it comes to our health care data? Blame it on old systems that no longer receive security updates and a healthcare conglomerate that, for the most part, has a few companies owning nearly all healthcare institutions in the country. Those companies have issued mandates to have all medical records stored digitally within a couple years, so healthcare organizations are scrambling to do so. 

When you scramble with data, though, precautions often are overlooked and hackers can thus steal information en masse. 

“When you scramble with data, precautions often are overlooked and hackers can thus steal information en masse.”

What do these hackers want with your medical information? Criminals can use medical records to fraudulently bill insurance or Medicare. Or they use patients’ identities for free consultations. Or they pose as patients to obtain prescription medications that can later be sold on the street.

For the organizations themselves, “They can’t keep up [with hackers],” said J.D. Sherry, who advises hospitals for cybersecurity firm Trend Micro (TMICY). “Their resources are tremendously overwhelmed. With day-to-day business, IT security is not top of mind.”

In addition, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, doesn’t demand that hospitals and physicians use encryption. 

Overall, the medical industry faces more breaches than the military and banking sectors combined. As of last week, the healthcare industry has been slammed with 204 incidents this year, nearly half of the major breaches so far. It has lost 2.1 million records, not even counting the 4.5 million names and Social Security numbers taken from Community Health Systems’ computer network in a major hack revealed on Monday.

Who’s Doing Big Data Best? A Fashion Startup, That’s Who

Big data has the potential to positively affect every industry, though those industries in which predictive analyses can increase revenue are the best suited. The best fit, then? Fashion, an industry in which hot trends, colors and silhouettes change so rapidly, it’s difficult for even the multitudes of fashion magazines and sites dedicated to fashion news to keep up. 

But, for fashion startup Rent the Runway, big data is their biggest secret to knowing which dresses to keep in stock, in which sizes and for how long. 

According to a story this week on Forbes, the Rent the Runway offices are a weird blend of talents, data scientists, fashion stylists, app developers, apparel merchandisers. “It’s as if MIT and FIT threw a mixer.”

“It’s as if MIT and FIT threw a mixer.”

“Each day Rent the Runway and its software algorithms juggle more than 65,000 dresses and 25,000 earrings, bracelets and necklaces as they zip across the country among its 5 million members. Sixty percent of the dresses fly back out the door the same day they arrive, balled up in Mylar UPS return envelopes,” the article says. 

Soon, the Rent the Runway headquarters will be the largest dry cleaner in the U.S., and the company seeks to become the Amazon of rental, an idea in which even the first investors saw promise. 

Says Juliet de Baubigny, a partner at Kleiner Perkins, “We didn’t back them as a fashion start up. It’s the sharing economy meets the Facebook–Instagram generation.”

Big data only better predicts the trends, and keeps customers coming back.