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Mixing technology and privacy

LIHUE — Kauai will host 900 of the world’s leading information technology specialists this week as they converge for the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

Billed as the premier conference of its type, HICSS is one of the longest-standing, continuously running scientific conferences, now in its 48th year. Computer academics, researchers and corporate professionals from 35 countries will fill the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa Monday through Thursday.

“This is not a show-and-tell type big convention and the Neighbor Island ambiance is preferable for collegial discussion,” Conference Administrator Sandra Laney said. “We try to keep it informal with an aloha feel about it.”

Laney attributes the strong interest this year to the guest speakers and subject matter of digital media and cyber security, social network analysis and e-health. There are 43 papers on information and computer security alone.

Werner Vogels, a former Cornell University researcher and now chief technology officer at Amazon, will serve as the conference’s distinguished lecturer. He will speak on the company’s leading technology with a customer focus.

Conference Chair Tung X. Bui said Vogels’ talk may touch on utilization of the support buying process and the experience for users. He may also speak on drone technology, or the idea of customer searches and other online behavior as predictors of what you are likely about to buy.

This technology is already working with customer activity, moving items to another location in anticipation of a purchase, Bui said. Another newly patented technology is the use of manless drones from warehouse to doorstep.

“We are very excited about Werner, and we expect him to say something with a lot of impact, because he is behind all kinds of innovation,” Bui said.

Technology has allowed for big data searches of social media to replace surveys as ways to gauge interest in products and entertainment, he said. They are able to predict what they would watch next.

Commercial smartphone technology makes it possible for a chain coffee shop to pick up when you are near a location.

If someone on your contact list is also nearby it might send a text to you both offering a discount if you stop in.

“We want to be served, but be aware that we are losing privacy,” Bui said. “By wanting to be served better, we expose ourselves and place ourselves at risk.”

The keynote speaker is Shwetak Patel, the UbiComp Lab director at the University of Washington. He will speak on sensor-enabled embedded systems as cutting human-computer interaction. He is working on electricity and water sensing systems that provide consumption data down to the appliance or device, along with unobtrusive mobile health sensing clinical projects that leverage the sensors on mobile devices.

Bui is also a professor of IT Management at UH and will speak on big data. The amount of data floating around in cyberspace is being collected, and that is a double-edged sword for helping and hurting our lives.

There is no more privacy, he said, as our every click, search and post is collected and analyzed. Our concepts of data protection are outdated and no longer is it about changing passwords in an era of big data aggregating.

“This is really a dilemma,” Bui said. “On the one hand you and I are consumers and want to use Google Maps for directions, and when we do it helps us get where we want to go, but we are also giving them a little bit more to observe about our behavior, our technology and private lives.”

The event is organized by the University of Hawaii, Department of Information Technology Management at Shidler College of Business.

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