Ex-NSA Whistleblowers Launch New Data Intelligence Startup in Europe
Co-founders Bill Binney and Kirk Wiebe, two former whistleblowers on data practices of US security giant NSA, have chosen the Netherlands as a new home to launch their own data intelligence startup Pretty Good Knowledge.
With the launch announced this week, the new company is building on the long-standing experience of their founders in big data analysis for security intelligence. Bill Binney and Kirk Wiebe spend almost three decades in the National Security Agency (NSA) working on specialized data analysis for improving security information, in particular related to terrorism affecting people around the world.
Their quiet existence rapidly changed in 2002 when they went public accusing the NSA leadership of wasting millions of dollars on an expensive but allegedly ineffective data system – whilst shelving the available solution that they claimed could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. This dramatic turn of their life into public whistleblowers made news around the world and has been portrayed in the movie documentary A Good American.
More than a decade later, the team is back from their temporary retirement and has a new mission: “We know how to achieve market and security intelligence without sacrificing privacy or breaking laws, and we are excited how quickly our customers realize how much more is possible when using a disciplined and structured approach”, says co-founder Bill Binney about the launch of Pretty Good Knowledge.
Data leaks, legal breaches and misuse of personal data are hotly debated issues in the global tech community far beyond security agencies. Facebook’s seemingly never-ending list of data scandals earned the company not only a record of bad publicity, but also a hearing by the American Senate and the European Parliament earlier this year. Global peer Google just announced shutting down its social media arm Google+ after an user data breach became public.
Amidst these scandals by global leaders, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect earlier this year, forcing companies across industries to review their own practices regarding data security and protection.
In this turbulent environment, startups like Pretty Good Knowledge are jumping in to advice their corporate peers big and small on how to make better use of the data they are producing, collecting and accumulating – while respecting the relevant laws and privacy concern. The startup has already carried out prototypes of their technology with major organizations such as the Dutch bank ABN AMBRO.
The promise of the easier data management may especially lure companies struggling to turn exponential growth of digital data into profitable business opportunities. Big data solutions seem to be facing a booming market: According to estimates by the International Data Corporation (IDC), worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics will grow to over $203 billion by 2020.
“Most organizations are wasting money trying to manage more data than they can handle. Others are missing out on business value by not utilizing the data they already have,” said Kirk Wiebe, co-founder and Director of Analytics at Pretty Good Knowledge. “At Pretty Good Knowledge we work closely with you to make the impact of data on your business measurable, meaningful and scalable.
*Disclosure: This article includes a client of an Espacio portfolio company