Data Sheet—Friday, October 3, 2014

October 3, 2014, 12:23 PM UTC

Welcome to Friday, Data Sheet readers. Bill Gates weighs in on Apple Pay, Bitcoin and why digital payments will transform emerging economies. Plus: Twitter just gave away all your Tweets for the good of academic research, while Facebook is pledging tighter guidelines for future experiments using member information. Why all of us need to pay way more attention to data ethics.


Whopper JPMorgan breach compromised 80-plus million accounts. The cyber break-in disclosed last summer hit more than 90 servers, exposing contact info for 76 million households and 7 million small businesses (but not passwords or Social Security Numbers). Just as scary: the hackers made off with a master list of all the software applications that run on the bank's computers. New York Times

VMware engineering hires put it at odds with Cisco. For almost six years, the companies have partnered on data center virtualization technology but Cisco's deepening investments in software-defined networks are making things tense. Now, VMware is putting its own line in the sand: not only has it scored a key Cisco sales engineering lead, Dom Delfino, it also hired away the co-founder of startup Big Switch Networks, Guido Appenzeller. Business Insider   

Patent suit backfires, NetApp prevails. The storage hardware company just won $1.4 million in attorneys' fees for defending itself against infringement accusations brought by a division of Acacia Research, one of the biggest U.S. patent holding companies. Acacia makes money from licensing its portfolio and suing those that don't pay. But a Supreme Court ruling last summer makes it easier for the accused to collect fees if their defense prevails. Ars Technica


Microsoft adds to small-business offerings. As of Oct. 2, companies with fewer than 250 employees have three new ways to buy the Office 365 services portfolio. A major motivation: changing up the specific applications in the starter package, based on customer feedback and to make them more comparable to Google's offerings. Plus, Microsoft has a related new software as a service (SasS) offering under development: called Sway, it lets people assemble interactive presentations that can grab content from social media. Ars Technica


Be careful where you stick that USB drive. Those who transport sensitive files on USB sticks because they think they're immune to cyberattacks should rethink that policy. Researchers just published the secrets of BadUSB, which makes them more vulnerable to malware, and there's no known defense. The Verge

Limited corporate exposure to Google Glass. The technology has great visibility in the corporate world: more than two-thirds of the 7,032 information workers recently surveyed by Forrester Research were aware of the technology. But only 4% have actually seen smart glasses in action, despite optimism over the potential to improve field-service processes. One exception is Wells Fargo, which is testing mobile banking apps at its lab in San Francisco. ZDNet


Big plans for digital note-taking app Evernote. The six-year-old company just topped 100 million users, including those brought on board through 16,000 business accounts. It has two compelling features on tap: an instant-messaging service that works right within the application, and a basic analytics engine that shows saved information that might relate to new notes. Fortune


Why Twitter gets away with sharing Tweets, while Facebook's research apology rings hollow

This week, Twitter handed $10 million plus every public Tweet every generated (and to be generated) on its social network to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology media lab. This is a massive data set: more than 500 million Tweets are sent daily.

The grand research experiment will visualize how information spreads. The results will show up as both data visualizations and as mobile apps to "create new forms of public communication and social organization." Oh, and by the way, there will be at least five more projects like this, as part of the Twitter Data Grants program

"To date, it has been challenging for researchers outside the company who are tackling big questions to collaborate with us to access our public, historical data," notes Twitter in its description of the initiative. "Our Data Grants program aims to change that by connecting research institutions and academics with the data they need.

But you probably don't even care because, you know, this stuff is public, right? Plus you probably forgot about some random comment you made, what, five years ago. Perhaps that's why the Twitter disclosure got very minimal media coverage, at least so far.

Meanwhile, Facebook kind of sort of apologized for the experiment it was caught conducting in June: one in which it basically replaced adjectives in newsfeeds to play with visitors' emotions. It actually published the results of that study early this year so other data scientists could learn from it.

"Although this subject matter was important to research, we were unprepared for the reaction the paper received when it was published and have taken to hear the comments and criticism," writes Facebook CTO Michael Schroepfer in a blog post. "It is clear now that there are things we should have done differently."

What is the result of this lesson? Tighter research guidelines, data ethics training and a review board made up of senior executives.

By the way, Reuters reports this morning that one of Facebook's next experiments will focus on how the social network can play a role in health care. As in, how member communities can help one another with chronic disease management or in spreading the word for important causes, such as why it's good to sign up as an organ donor.

During a Fortune Brainstorm TECH event this week focused on marketing technologies, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg professed her confidence that members are OK with being data guinea pigs, which will keep them from fleeing to competitors like Ello. "People will continue to use Facebook if they understand that we don’t tell who they are to anyone, if they understand that they have control over what they share, and if we build a great product that continues to connect," she said.

I'll buy the notion that people will share information, if it results in some tangible benefit that appeals to their self-interest. But the perpetual stream of cyberbreaches at high-profile brands like JPMorgan, Home Depot and Target has most otherwise blasé consumers paying far more attention to privacy than in the past.

There's a lesson here for Fortune 500 companies defining data analytics policies: make sure your scientists get some ethics training because if/when a breach happens things the disclosure process will be far more straightforward.

In my mind, Google is no angel when it comes to manipulating data, but at Fortune's dinner earlier this week, senior marketing executive Lorraine Twohill described the digital data privacy and "ownership" policy most people want to hear: “The consumer owns the data, that’s why I think controls are so important. The user should be able to know what you know about them and how you’re using it. And they should be able to get out if they want to.”

Yes, it's all about the data but never forget who really "owns" it.


Why Bill Gates thinks Bitcoins are better than currency. Philanthrophist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates describes the security and simplicity of the forthcoming Apple Pay as a "real contribution" to advancing mobile payments, during a wide-ranging interview (video) on "Street Smart." Digital payments and alternative currencies like Bitcoins are a big focus for his family's foundation, which is looking for ways to use digital payment advances to improve microfinancing in some of the world's poorest countries, Kenya, Bangladesh and Somalia.

But when it comes to his ongoing association with Microsoft, Gates says his biggest priority is "taking Office and making it dramatically better" with applications that serve new generations of information workers. So far, he thinks new CEO Satya Nadella is doing a great job: "I see a new sense of energy."


Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2014: Compare notes with peers. (Oct. 5 – 9, Orlando, Fla.)

Splunk .conf2014. Glean intelligence from machine data. (Oct. 6 – 9, Las Vegas)

Dreamforce: 1,400 sessions about the largest cloud ecosystem. (Oct. 13-16, San Francisco)

Strata/Hadoop World: Big data tools and techniques. (Oct. 15 – 17, New York)

QuickBooks Connect: SMBs, entrepreneurs, accountants and developers. (Oct. 21 – 23, San Jose, Calif.)

IBM Insight 2014: Big data and analytics. (Oct. 26 – Oct. 30, Las Vegas)

TBM Conference 2014: Manage the business of IT. (Oct. 28- 30, Miami Beach)

AWS re:Invent: The latest about Amazon Web Services. (Nov. 11 – 14, Las Vegas)

Gartner Data Center Conference: Ideas for operations and management. (Dec. 2 – 5, Las Vegas)