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ISU graduate writes book on data privacy

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI) - Your data, how it’s used, and who has access to it have been hot topics in recent years. Now, an Idaho State University Alumna is tackling the issue in a new book.

Recently, Dr. Claire McKay Bowen published her first book, “Protecting Your Privacy in a Data-Driven World.”

Throughout its pages, Bowen explains the need to balance access to personal and confidential data by policymakers and data privacy concerns for citizens.

The book serves as a practical, nontechnical guide that explains the importance of balancing these competing needs and calls for careful consideration of how data is collected and disseminated by our government and the private sector.

“We can’t have all the privacy and all the utility,” Bowen said. “The data privacy community that consists of data stewards, data participants, data practitioners, researchers, and public policymakers must weigh the costs and benefits in order to balance the two sides. Revealing too much information places people at risk, such as empowering stalkers to more easily track people. However, collecting too little information restricts our ability to help people.” 

Bowen grew up in Salmon, Idaho and was a first-generation college student. At ISU, she earned Honors Bachelor of Science degrees in Mathematics and Physics along with a minor in Statistics in 2012. While in Pocatello, she was President of the Math Club and the Society of Physics Students.

ISU was where she discovered that she has a passion for teaching the public about the STEM fields.

“I worked a lot with Dr. Steve Shropshire doing Physics demos,” Bowen said. “I learned how to explain science to a general audience, especially to kids, and to try to get their attention and think science is cool.”

“Claire is one of the best undergraduate students I have seen in my tenure at ISU,” said ISU Physics Department Chair Dr. Steve Shropshire. “Every year of her education, she volunteered countless hours to community service and science education outreach through the Society of Physics Students, visiting K-12 schools to engage students in science activities, as well as scientific presentations and events for the general public.”

After her time at ISU, she took her talents to the University of Notre Dame. She earned both a Master of Science and a Ph.D. in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics. From there, she worked as a postdoctoral research associate at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Now, she is serving at the Urban Institute as a principal research associate on Data Privacy and Confidentiality.

“The Urban Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan research institution that elevates the debate on various public policy issues like taxes, health, justice, and much more,” Bowen said. “With my specialty of data privacy, most of my projects are about helping researchers access data that is useful and also addresses the privacy needs of citizens.” 

Looking ahead, Bowen hopes that her efforts on the frontiers of data privacy will help recruit more people to address the difficult questions.

“This field is very much in demand,” Bowen said. “There’s not enough of us, and there are too many cool problems and not enough players to work on them. I really want more people to work on these issues and contribute.”

For more details on Bowen’s work and book, visit clairemckaybowen.com.

Article Topic Follows: ISU
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Cole Sams

Cole is a reporter for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.

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