back to article IBM's Ginni Rometty snipes, er, someone for being irresponsible with data, haven't a clue who

IBM boss Ginni Rometty has turned her wrathful gaze towards irresponsible Silicon Valley bosses, saying "the weakest link should not define the digital economy". She singled out AI transparency and platform liability as areas in need of reform. IBM's new mainframe IBM talks 'emerging, high value segments' – so you know the …

  1. JohnFen

    Interesting omission

    "She singled out AI transparency and platform liability as areas in need of reform."

    And yet she didn't single out the largest problem in need of fixing: informed consent. Want to gather data about me? Get my permission. Want to store it in the cloud? Get my permission for that as well.

    1. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: Interesting omission

      The most interesting omission to me is the one where she says "We're annoyed we never thought of doing all that".

    2. egbegb

      Re: Interesting omission

      You come into my store and buy something with your credit card. Are you saying I can't record your name, your photo and what you bought? Privacy is a two way street. What you do in public can be recorded with or without your permission. What you do on my premises I can record without your permission.

      1. smudge

        Re: Interesting omission

        What you do on my premises I can record without your permission.

        Not if you are subject to European data privacy legislation.

        I assume from your use of the word "store" that you are from the Land of the Free and No Rights.

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Interesting omission

        What you do on my premises I can record without your permission.

        I am having my morning moment of blondness which usually coincides with the blood level in my coffee subsystem being above the 3 double espressos mark. So I apologise for the dumb question, but can you please explain to us:

        How does that work if you are running a hotel and the premises in question are the guest room?

        I do not think that there is any need to say anything more about your argument.

    3. devTrail

      Re: Interesting omission

      "Want to gather data about me? Get my permission. Want to store it in the cloud? Get my permission for that as well."

      That's not enough because your permission will always based on limited knowledge of what is the amount of information your data can provide once it is correlated with other data. Keep in mind that all these businesses collect data by any means, there are also a lot of data which are not covered by the GDPR which can cross correlated with private details, moreover a lot of subsidiaries can provide data coming from different sources and BTW do you remember how Facebook acquired Whatsapp data with a ridiculously weak antitrust response? Could private citizens have known this in advance?

      Basically there will always be information asymmetry leaving the private citizens unable to understand the real impact of the data they hand over. What we need is a serious antitrust regulation dedicate to any kind of data and information preventing excessive third party exchanges and preventing corporation from doing multiple businesses for the sake of gathering data. Think about Amazon that wants to set up a courier service, should a company then for some reason send a parcel to all their employees via this courier they would provide to Amazon name and address of a lot of people including those who never bought anything via Amazon thus strengthening their database. It could be even worse, like a council sending a letter to all the residents via Amazon.

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  3. #define INFINITY -1

    The online platform El Reg is definitely shaping my opinion. Time for regulatory intervention!

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Yeah, for a start, take away their beer tokens. There is no harsher sanction than that! It's the least they deserve.

      Only kidding, El Reg. Were it possible to choose an icon for posts on your mobile website, this one would have the pint alongside it.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        The beer token is good, but where is the corresponding coffee?[1]

        [1] Other good beverages, hot and cold, are available.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We're too small

    ... "means using a regulatory scalpel, not a sledgehammer, to avoid collateral damage" ...

    So... no need to investigate companies with less than 6 letters in their name?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This, from a company that believes the law should be the sole defining criteria of ethics.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well, that's effectively the sole purpose of law, to say unequivocally what's right and what's not.

      If law doesn't cover a particular topic adequately (not even devolving responsibility to, for example, a medical body), then the law should be updated.

      And if your local legislature isn't doing that, make it a political issue and get a new set of politicians. If your country doesn't work that way, well that's how revolutions happen.

      1. yoganmahew

        "If law doesn't cover a particular topic adequately (not even devolving responsibility to, for example, a medical body), then the law should be updated."

        Well, no, principles based law defines categories of misbehaviour; it doesn't deail every possible transgression. Principles based law is what is required here.

        Oh and Mrs. Ginny, Facebook-> Cambridge Analytica WAS B2B, so I suggest that B2B is where the bigger danger lies - one company takes from the public, then sells to another business that misuses the data; your ill-aimed potshots at GDPR are ill-founded, it hits the responsibility mark reasonably well.

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "the weakest link should not define the digital economy"

    Sorry Ginni, but the weakest link defines the limits of everything you can do.

    It's just how it is, and throwing a tantrum or making a speech as CEO is not going to change that.

  7. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Rogue actors

    Rogue actors

    No such thing. My rogue actor is the guy's on the other side of the fence goodie carrying the officially approved message.

    Further to this, it is absolutely impossible to remove "rogue actors" without going full Brezhnev and exercising to the minute control on the whole media to carry the "soviet state message". This is because every piece of media now has some level of social aspect - discussion forums, facebook integration, google news integration, twitter integration. You name it.

    In fact, even Brezhnev failed at the control bit too. There was a physics joke floating around Moscow during the darkest days of the Gerontocracy: "Is the Theory of Relativity valid? Of course it is not. It has been experimentally proven that rumours travel at faster than lightspeed".

    The "platforms" Ginnie is moaning about are today's rumour mill. They are simply the medium in which things travel instead of watercooler conversations and phone gossip. If she wants the travel of information on them curtailed, she can have a look at how successful were Brezhnev, Suslov and Honeker in doing so.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm hard put trying to recall any firm/government which stores personal data not mishandling it.

  9. FozzyBear
    IT Angle

    What scares Rometty is that governments might be stirred into action against the tech sector, and that they'll mishandle things.

    Who, the tech companies or governments? Honestly neither have a good track record

    On a side note: when over a six month period the only stories about I.B.M relate to lay offs or the whiny little rant of an ineffective CEO. No major releases or new tech (that I can recall). You have to wonder are they a tech company any more?

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      @FozzyBear - Stirring governments to act is never a good idea. When they are stirred they will act and often it will be sledge hammer never a scalpel. I have little sympathy for many in the tech sector as they are forcing governmental action by their complete lack of ethics. It seems like Suckerberg, et. al. do not understand ethics is much broader than what is technically legal. An ethical person realizes often the law does cover an area but one should behave with clear, personal idea of right and wrong at all times. There will be gray areas that are rather murky at times but an ethical person will try find a good solution not a convenient one.

    2. FrankAlphaXII

      >>You have to wonder are they a tech company any more?

      No, they're an acquisitions company (see: Red Hat) that dabbles in Mainframes and buzzword laden marketing, as well as their semi-lucrative business of selling parts of itself to Lenovo.

  10. Brad Ackerman
    Black Helicopters

    Her helicopter should be an excellent platform for sniping, assuming some sort of stabilized mount.

  11. John Savard Silver badge


    Of course this was all in fun, but given what we often read here and on other tech sites, I think it could be fairly supposed that Facebook and perhaps even Google were among the companies she was thinking of. Although Google's record with personal data isn't all that bad.

    Some posts here have noted that if people urgently try to get the government to Do Something about this, the cure may be worse than the disease. True, but if these companies don't clean up their act, how will that be avoided?

    Of course, I've chosen not to use Facebook, even though I may be misunderstanding the media coverage, and perhaps its little slip-ups aren't of a sort that would affect me very much.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Disingenuous

      Eh? You were definitely in that photo that I saw on Facebook last week? That thing you at last week. Definitely you wasn’t it? Are you sure you’re not on Facebook?

  12. GruntyMcPugh

    IBM Fumbled the ball.

    From the Wikipedia article on the AltaVista search engine:

    "By using the data collected by the crawler, employees from AltaVista, together with others from IBM and Compaq, were the first to analyze the strength of connections within the budding World Wide Web in a seminal study in 2000.[11]" (

    IBM analysed traffic data on the budding WWW, aaaaaand,.... tumbleweed.

    So Ginni having a rant about the conduct of people who did step in, is irrelevant. She can't say IBM would have done it better, or more ethically.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      IBM ran a similar analysis on its internal traffic (Sametime, Notes etc) but canned the study when it showed evidence of collusion between managers to breach internal HR policies and employment law. no evidence, nothing to report.

  13. James Anderson Silver badge

    Once you know something .. You know

    Knowledge is pretty much unforgettable.

    You can legislate against gathering knowledge -- it's called spying, or, voyerism and the laws are reasonably effective.

    But asking a business to forgret who bought some thing from you or who walked into your shop -- you are now in a legal swamp. You need to keep records about who was sold what, you pay attention when Boris Johnson wanders in but does not actually buy. You cannot legislate forgetting. The current meatspace situation has always been fraught with high profile cases -- slander, gagging orders D notices have always resulted in controversy and mixed public opinion.

    So what not go for the Scott McNeally approach and admit you have no privacy on line.

    This would work a lot better than thinking you were somehow protected by a government who's elected representatives were funded by the companies that gathered your data.

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