SAP AG (SAP) Chairman Hasso Plattner said governments need to design new rules that balance privacy with the need to collect and analyze increasing amounts of data in areas including health care.
“Before there were cars, there weren’t any traffic rules,” he said yesterday at a press event in Potsdam, Germany. “Since then people have tried everything to get a grip on traffic, and now we’ll have to do the same with the digitalization of data.”
The integrity of consumer records has come under scrutiny since former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed in June that the government secretly collected telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ:US) under a classified court order. Prism, another program, collects Internet data from Apple Inc. (AAPL:US), Google Inc. (GOOG:US), and other companies.
SAP’s data-crunching Hana software, developed under Plattner’s tutelage, rapidly processes gigabytes of data ranging from business data to genome sequences found in cancer patients’ blood. The vast quantity of information amassed by businesses, governments and universities that requires powerful computers for storage and analysis is often referred to as big data.
Billionaire Plattner, 69, said governments shouldn’t elevate concerns about privacy over the benefit that big-data technology offers when devising new rules.
“Protection of personal data must be ensured, but not at the cost of keeping us from doing things that we could do and that make sense,” Plattner said.
In the health-care industry, rules in Germany require that medical records are anonymous and customers’ specific health details are kept from insurance companies, he said. Hospitals have to store patient data on their premises, improving their protection while at great expense, he said.
Deutsche Telekom AG (DTE), Germany’s biggest phone company, is lobbying the government to enforce tougher privacy protection by helping to keep German Internet traffic, including e-mail, within national borders.
Google, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US) and Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO:US) shouldn’t be allowed to publish how much data they turn over to intelligence agencies as doing so would “cause serious harm to national security,” the U.S. told a secret national security court, according to court papers made public this month.
SAP, based in Walldorf, Germany, has said its corporate customers can decide in which region of the globe their files are stored and thereby help evade requests to provide data to governments in other countries.
Plattner declined to say whether U.S. government agencies are using the Hana software to analyze data. SAP has 2,200 Hana customers, up from 1,500 in June, plus 1,000 startups developing applications that run on Hana, Plattner said.
Plattner, who co-founded SAP in 1972, declined to say whether he plans to remain chairman of the supervisory board after his current term expires in 2017.
SAP is scheduled to report third-quarter earnings on Oct. 21.
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