On a crisp February morning, and long before any reasonable person would be awake, I got a phone call from the Queensland police. Still bleary of eye and furry of the tongue, I could barely get my words out: yes, I was Kirill Eremenko; yes, I was at my home in Brisbane; yes, I owned the number plate that they read out to me. So what was the problem? They asked me whether anyone apart from me used the motorbike I owned and whether I knew where the vehicle was. The question launched me into consciousness and had me leaping down the stairs to my garage.
With relief, I saw that my pride and joy was still there. But the question remained: if everything they were asking me about (including me) was safely locked away, what were the police doing with all of my details? They told me that they had spotted a motorcycle with my number plate evading the police in the Gold Coast, a beach city not far from Brisbane. They said that considering my motorbike was at my home, my number plate must have been forged – and they later found it was.
Imagine for a moment that my bike had indeed been stolen. How could I have proved that it wasn’t me who had been evading the law enforcement officers? That night I had been alone, and I had no alibi to speak of. As far as the police were concerned, it could certainly have been me, particularly considering how difficult it is to forge a number plate in so heavily regulated a country like Australia. Even though at the start of the conversation I didn’t know if my motor-bike had been stolen, I realized that I hadn’t been at all worried about an alibi during this phone interrogation, not even for a second, because I knew that I had done nothing wrong.
I knew that technology would act as my witness. I carry my phone with me much of the time, I charge it near my bed and any actions I perform with it are registered. This brought to mind my time at Deloitte when I worked with the forensics division. We worked on countless situations where people professed that they were doing something or that they were in one place, but the tracking recorded on their phones told quite a different story. These records were used as evidence because from mobile devices to CCTV cameras, recorded data doesn’t lie.
The point here is that data can heal. It can act as your alibi. It can act as proof in criminal cases. Many people have a mindset that data can only harm – you won’t get very far in the discipline if you only think of yourself as the villain. A little change in how you consider data science and its functions will encourage you to look for new ways that practices can be improved and enhanced through data, rather than feeling that you need to justify your work to colleagues.