The aggregation of data: why is it important?
Wednesday, 14 March 2007

In the framework of PAYD applications, the aggregation of data is a technical and/or legal necessity, particularly in France. However, the interpretation of this idea can have extremely important consequences for individual privacy rights.

The aggregation of data for practical use

 Aggregation of data, also called consolidation of information or "metadata", simply means synthesizing a very large, hard-to-gather amount of information into a summary that is "digestible" but "relevant". The obvious advantage of this synthesis is that it allows you to make decisions—whether strategic, commercial, financial, social, or humanitarian— using thousands of pieces of information often coming from enormous databases that would otherwise be "humanly" impossible to analyze.

In the case of traffic control or analyzing insurance risks (actuaries), this synthesis is almost always presented in the form of statistics, such as :

  • the number of deaths on Road 110 during the month of August between 1987 and 2007,
  • the average cost of a motorist compared to his insurer and his annual premium,
  • the « Loss Ratio » comparing the claims an insurer must pay to the premiums earned

The aggregation of data for legislative reasons

 The new techniques of information and communication (NTIC) are as powerful forces for helping humanity as for hurting it. The power to possess very detailed information about one or many individuals has thus rapidly necessitated a judicial framework to guarantee the individual civil liberties of each person in modern democratic societies.

In France, it is the role of the National Commission for Information Technology and Privacy Rights (CNIL) to protect these individual rights. We can see from the following examples that the more you aggregate data, the less you infringe on individual privacy rights. In this way, a system like PAYD can be properly implemented :

  • the system reports your smallest actions and movements in the form of raw data (minimum aggregation/ maximum detail)
  • the system reports statistical data about the type of roads taken (moderate aggregation/ moderate detail)
  • the system reports the number of kilometers once a year (maximum aggregation/ minimum detail)


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